This Is Water

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4 NIV

The other day I tuned in a local Christian radio station in time to hear Oak Cliff pastor Tony Evans say something along this line, You may say, well, I don’t feel sin. I’ll tell you something. Fish don’t feel wet.

In his 2005 commencement speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College, the late author David Foster Wallace told the story of two young fish swimming along who meet an older fish. The older fish nods to them and says, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on and eventually one asks the other, “What is water?” Wallace went on to deliver a brilliantly composed opinion about the simple truth that “the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about”.

Trading on his credibility, Wallace boldly challenged the liberal arts students to be conscious when choosing what they think, and he made his argument using the oh-so-specific, concrete language that was his calling card. Later in the essay, Wallace quoted an old cliché that the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. He urged the graduates to choose points of view outside their own self-centered experience. That idea will preach.

Finally, German philosopher (and interestingly, economist) Karl Marx believed man creates religion, not the other way around. He famously called religion the opium of the masses. Marx was right about all that, which is one reason the Bible says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

As Christians, it’s so very easy to think and live comfortably situated within our religion. Whether our religion comprises centuries-old traditions espoused by generations of believers or it drinks almost exclusively from a few truths that rose to the top within the past few decades, it’s still religion. It still has the power to drug us into mindlessly sleepwalking through life without making any weighty choices at all. It still isn’t Jesus, in Whom we are instructed to abide (John 15).

If the idea of disengaging our autopilots is frightening, well, welcome to the human race. Ruling one’s mind is not for the faint of heart. You’ll become a sort of perpetual sacrifice, always having to recant, repent, and change your mind about this or that. But guess what. Such mastery is the path to enlightenment, to no longer being “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1,2).

I’m convinced such wakefulness looks like a life of ever more capacity, a life of ever more acceptance, ever more hope, ever more giving, ever more wisdom, ever more certainty, ever more love.

In short, an indomitable life.

© Melissa Kay Simonds

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