A little fish came to the wise old big fish with a question that was troubling him. ”Okay,” he said, ”I understand sand. I can see it below me. I know about rocks, and how to hide among them. And I know what plants are. But where’s this ocean everybody’s always talking about?”
Because the fish was in the ocean, and a part of it, he had no awareness of the water in and around him. I remember being surprised at the stillness around me the first time I went up in a hot air balloon. There was a breeze – there had to be, or we wouldn’t have been able to move sideways. Yet there was no sensation of air moving around us. Like the fish not being able to sense the water, we had become one with the moving air.
If that little fish had somehow managed to jump out of the water, he would very quickly have recognized what he was missing. He would not survive very long out of his native element. He was created to breathe underwater.
Do you ever have days, or longer periods of time, where you feel like a fish out of water, gasping to catch your spiritual breath? This happens to me when I miss my quality time with God in the morning. Oh, I may spend time “in the chair,” but I realize my thoughts haven’t been focused on God. My attitude is “off.” I feel out of touch. Things I usually enjoy have become a struggle.
I know God’s presence hasn’t left me. He has promised He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). He is the same yesterday today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Though I know this, I feel unable to perceive His presence. I’m like that little fish: where is this presence of God everyone is talking about?
Of course, recognizing there’s a problem is the first step in solving it, so once I realize I’m not experiencing the fullness of joy that comes with really being present with Him (Psalm 16:11), the next step is to readjust my thinking. I talk to God about my bouncing thoughts. I compel myself to focus by reading the Bible out loud instead of to myself. I make sure to take moments throughout the day to realign my thoughts with the Word of God. Sometimes I stick post-it notes with verses where I’ll be sure to see them.
When I’m trying to focus on God, distracting thoughts are almost certain to intrude. They may be good thoughts, useful thoughts, reminders of things I need to do, or even ideas for writing topics. But at the moment they’re distractions. Instead of worrying that I’ll forget them, I jot them down to take care of later and get right back to focusing on God.
How comforting to find myself once again swimming freely through my activities, enjoying each thing as I do it. I love the assurance that God’s goodness and mercy are following me (Psalm 23:6), and I am right where he wants me to be – “back in the water.”