My friend Gill has a Taiwanese poetry book of which we can’t read a single word. Strangely, it’s become one of our most precious books. Every few months she brings it out at a gathering of friends and we slowly page through it, looking at the pictures. And something remarkable happens – almost every person finds a picture that speaks to them in some way, that shows something of where they find themselves in their lives at that moment. It’s not so much that we choose a picture; it feels a little more like the picture chooses us.
Gill brought her book to breakfast in December and we began to page. As we neared the end of the book, I was the one person who had not yet found ‘my’ picture. But another page flipped over and there it was. I knew. I felt it inside. This was my picture:
A little man beached on the shore, waiting for the tide to wash over him. In some profound way it resonated with me. I was tired after an intensive year of writing and editing. I had just launched the first book of my trilogy and the other two were in various stages of production. I was contemplating what to write next. I had even dabbled with writing the opening chapters of a new book . But I felt creatively dry. Beached. Unable to move back into a creative flow.
The image stayed with me and, over time, I gained new insights. For one thing, I realised that the picture depicted more than the state of my creativity; it also depicted a spiritual dryness. I had spent too much time in the shallows with God, where the waves of life had pounded me back onto the shore. I clearly felt a call to go deeper with him in 2017.
Deep. The word has woven its way through my life of late. Thursday in a school assembly we sang “Oceans Deep” and Sunday, in church, the minister preached on going deeper with God.
I’ve been asking myself ‘how do I go deeper?’ Ideally, I’d like a three point plan, a strategy and timeline in which to implement it. But I have a growing suspicion that going deeper with God is not going to be anything like that. To begin with it’s going to require—I wince as I say it—slowing down.
“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.” (Dallas Willard)
Ouch! Ruthlessly eliminate hurry – now that’s a challenge for someone results-driven, who always tries to maximise every moment of the day. Yet, even my first stumbling attempts at slowing down are allowing me to take in moments that would normally pass me by, to reflect more deeply and gain insights that would likely have eluded me in the daily rush.
Linked to this is the fresh realisation that I desperately need to spend daily time with God. Our world is so very noisy, so distracting and it has a powerful way of pulling us into its own—dare I say superficial—priorities. But I find that when I start the day with God, I take a little of his stillness, his slowness and his priorities into the world with me.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” (Richard Foster)