June 3, 2019

Weekly Reflection – I Once Went Down in a Diving Bell

Weekly Reflection – I Once Went Down in a Diving Bell

I want share the experience when I once when down in a diving bell. It was a profound experience for me. But first,

“Forgiveness of sins is too little to expect from the mercy of God; we may 
also boldly and legitimately desire the closest union with God, in this life and
the next. It is not that we have merited such favor, but simply that it is the
realization of God’s plan for us when we were created in his image and likeness…
We may have made a mess of our lives according to our own estimation and
perhaps, that of others, but nothing has changed in the way that God regards us.”

(Michael Casey, Grace – On the Journey To God, page 85).

I have been reflecting on these words from a Trappist monk who lives in Australia for several weeks. Doesn’t it sound, well heretical? “Forgiveness of sins” is too little to expect? For 2000 years, Christendom has promised salvation from sin through a relationship (defined in many different ways) with Jesus Christ so that we won’t go to “that bad place.” And of course, for the traditional Christian, there is truth in that. But in a broader view, it seems that such forgiveness is only a step toward one’s real goal of actually drawing near to God, or even becoming a “temple of God” in this life. That syncs with one of my personal themes, “You can get no closer to God than you are right now” (“one God and Father of all, who is overall, in all, and through all.” Ephesians 4:6). And it matches James’ words in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”

The problem is that while God is with us all the time (especially after our sins have been forgiven), we are so preoccupied with the things of the world that we simply cannot see Him. Our conscious minds are constantly thinking, analyzing, reacting, deciding, etc. They are so busy “living life” that they remain unaware of the light that is available to illuminate them and others from within.

We create a “persona” that is, in fact, not the real me. And on the mind’s subconscious level there are numerous prepackaged programs (or ways of habitually responding) for happiness that come out of our early brokenness and trauma and perceived deficiencies in personal needs such as safety/security, affection/esteem, and power/control. Ultimately we must find a way to quiet the conscious mind, exit our “false self,” and allow the Spirit of God to “reprogram” our faulty subconscious motivations. I call it, allowing God to speak from the silence between our thoughts. Only then can we more meaningfully move toward being one “with” God.

About 50 years ago, I had the unforgettable experience of going down in a diving bell. The bell was lowered into the Gulf of Mexico and descended about 145 feet to a subsea wellhead that I was studying. I entered the subsea atmospheric chamber in much the same way astronauts transfer into the International Space Station. Then, after my work was done, the process was repeated, and I returned to the surface.

The process of drawing near to God goes beyond the obvious attempts to study the Bible, to repent, to receive baptism and to live a pure life. Drawing near to God is somewhat akin to going down in the proverbial diving bell. The real meat comes when for example, through a practice of silent meditation, we are able to calm the mind and go below the surface where waves, storms, obstacles, currents, etc., continually buffet us.

Below the surface, the ocean is calm. And the deeper one goes, the calmer it gets until there is nothing but you (We call it the True Self.) and the surrounding environment. Far beneath the surface, it can be a dark environment as well, at least until a great light illuminates the darkness, revealing a wondrous world that is free from the chaos found on the surface.

Yes, I am still tied to the surface by an umbilical cord. It provides the unconscious aspects of my practical needs (such as oxygen). And in my biologically human state, I must eventually return to the surface. But a few moments in the deep energizes the rational life I live on the surface. What could more delightful than periodically (even frequently) going down in such a diving bell?

So, go deep this week!

Blessings and peace,

Chaplain Allen

Chaplain Thyssen - dive bell

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