You could label this picture “Ministers lying down on the job.” These folks were part of our Blue Theology Retreat Day for clergy and religious educators last week, and they’re on their backs, looking up at the million-gallon Open Ocean tank at the Aquarium.
But we at the Blue Theology Mission Station call it “Dry scuba diving” and we encourage all our groups to do it, to get a sense of looking UP, rather than DOWN, at sea life. (Teen youth groups will do this willingly, but I wondered how religious leaders would respond to my suggestions. Answer – they jumped right in.)
Being land mammals we tend to picture the ocean as “down there” or “out there.” It’s very different to look “up there” at giant sea turtles and massive tuna and stalking hammerhead sharks, not to mention swirling schools of tens of thousands of sardines.
Looking “up there” puts us right there in the picture, in the mix, in the water, one with our sister/brother sea creatures. Not standing separate and distant on the shore. And a little vulnerable – there is so much above me. I am not in charge.
But “up” is hopeful also, looking up, to the light.
One participant wrote later, “One measure of the importance of the beautiful day is that when the frenzy-on-land starts stirring up my anxiety, I just flash back on the underwater images and
I immediately calm.”
We land mammals also tend to think of God as “up there,” as if the earth were flat and God only lives in the clouds. Last week we experienced God down there, around here, in the wet dark depths, where God is both down and up. Many scuba divers tell me, when I describe my ocean ministry, that they know just what I mean, saying “It’s in the quiet dark ocean depths that I feel closest to God.”
Try looking up.
Bluetheology.com We have 50 youth and adults coming this summer to Pacific Grove to look up to God and the ocean. Still some room in August.