Recently, while serving in the Philippines, Gary and I enjoyed an excursion to the Palawan region where we experienced the beauty of the El Nido islands. Have you ever seen a travel magazine or poster on a billboard with a picture showing grass huts overlooking turquoise blue water? El Nido looks like that picture. It is a real place and the water actually is as stunningly blue as the picture portrays.
The water surrounding these islands reflects the expanded version of the crayon box with every possible variation of blue and green. When looking into the water, the view is clear, allowing your gaze to travel deep below the surface. Diving into this brilliantly colored water reveals creativity, creation, and creatures carrying on in this underwater context.
“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.” Psalm 104:24, 25
Gary and I entered the water world of the South China Sea and snorkeled with God’s aquatic creatures teeming below the surface. We witnessed bright blue fish, parrot fish (because they are as colorful as a parrot), orange, yellow, white and black fish, little Nemo fish and fluorescent purple tiny fish. Gary spotted a sting ray sitting on the floor of its ocean home; we were thankful to not disturb him. Sea anemones swayed with the water current and bright corals, rocks and seaweed decorated the diverse landscape beneath the surface. The sea teems with creatures beyond number.
The waters are alive with the creativity of our Creator. While kayaking in the “Big Lagoon” the gentle motion of a sea turtle greeted us. This little fellow swam alongside us gliding through his watery home, coming to the surface for infrequent breaths. His movement mesmerized us and gladdened our hearts as God allowed this encounter with one of his creation. The residents of El Nido demonstrate great care for the islands and the waters that surround them. Only kayaking is allowed in the Big Lagoon so as to preserve and protect the habitat below the surface. The external world impacts the health of life beneath. Plastics are not used on any of the islands and intentional preservation occurs so that the life teeming below the surface remains untainted, pure, and beautiful. Just as we care for God’s creation in the outer world, the one above the water, caring for the inner world of God’s handiwork is just as important and necessary.
As human beings, we live with both an outer and inner world. The external is seen by most: your physical characteristics, patterns of living, manner of speech, personality, and relationships. The internal, however, is below the surface – the state of your soul, thoughts, motivations, and passions. Most time throughout the day focuses on caring for the outside: the meals we prepare, the clothes we wear, how we socialize, the ways we exercise, and how we work and play. While caring for the exterior is important, how does caring for that which lies beneath the obvious manifest itself in your life?
Do you care for what teems below the surface of your outer world?
Just as the El Nido residents endeavor to preserve and protect the habitat under the surface of the sea, so too must followers of Christ intentionally care for the inner aspects of our being.
What are ways to give attention to the life teeming within your soul? How can we keep our inner world untainted, pure and beautiful?
Jesus offers new life to those who follow Him (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). Consequently, the life teeming below is redeemed by Him and made holy by Him. The Apostle Paul exhorts the church in Corinth to take every thought captive. This means holding the thoughts offered by the external world and determining if they should be permitted into the inner world, below the surface. After we hold these thoughts, we must either reject them, or make sure they are obedient to the ways of Jesus Christ. As Jesus’ disciples, we get to take authority over the messages that endeavor to dive below the surface into our hearts. When we allow unfiltered, ungodly thoughts into our soul, pollution occurs, tainting and inhibiting the transforming work of Christ.
Paul offers direction to combat worry within his closing exhortation to the church in Philippi. Yet, his message doesn’t need to stop with the issue of anxiety. His words offer care for the hidden world within – the filter to protect our soul from pollution, damage, and emptiness.
“Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8.)
Be intentional about what seeks to dive into your soul. Let these be the filter into your soul:
- Is it true?
- Is it noble?
- Is it right?
- Is it pure?
- Is it lovely?
- Is it admirable?
- Is it excellent?
- Is it praiseworthy?
What kind of life teems within your soul? Notice the ways the outer world impacts your inner world. Care for the beautiful colorful creative soul God has given you by attentively preserving and protecting yourself from the influences of the world that seek to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus came to give you abundant life.
Live fully alive with Him by attending to the subterranean of your soul!
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Gordon MacDonald. Ordering Your Private World. Nashville, TN. 2012.
Tommy Newberry. The 4:8 Principle: The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life. Carol Stream, IL. 2007.