“Hey, Jack! Hey Diane! Great to see you two! You know, it sure is neat to reflect on how, only a few years ago, you guys first put on the life jacket and jumped into the bay! Now, you’re swimming around just like you were born here! It’s so good to have you with us!”
“Thanks, Phil. Yeah, it’s been quite the journey so far. There’s so much joy here – all the kids laughing and splashing, and the parents and families just blissfully swimming around the bay, and of course”, Jack said, looking lovingly at Diane, “we couldn’t be happier. I’ve definitely found my soul mate.” Diane added, “Also, I’m so thankful for the lifeguards who watch over us – making sure everyone obeys the rules, and follows the lesson plans – developing their strength for the big swim that we’re all sure to undertake some day. Oh, and the sunsets! Every single day, to be able to watch the sunset – how beautiful it is; its majesty and glory. There’s something about it that gives life. It almost seems like, without the sun, we would all die, even with the life jackets. Yeah, I’m just plain grateful for all that I have, and for all that I am.”
As happy as they were, as Jack swam around, enjoying the life of the bay, he couldn’t help but wonder about a few things, like, “What’s lies below? With this life jacket on, I can’t explore the depths of the bay. All I can do is swim on the surface. And any time anyone tries to swim without the life jacket, the lifeguards force the issue, threatening to kick the offender out of the bay. Plus – that sun…it just draws me. I want to get closer, to know it, to truly experience it. Something tells me that this is not only possible, it is desirable, even required. Yet, with this life jacket on, I really can’t swim fast enough or long enough to get out of the bay, much less actually follow the sun like I know in my heart I’m supposed to.” He shared these questions with Diane at first, but they remained questions – nothing to be seriously pursued. After all, the water was just fine, and he was happier than he had ever been. It didn’t seem like a good idea to rock anyone else’s world at this time.
Jack was also curious about Daniel – the older guy who kind of kept to himself most of the time. He obeyed all the rules and was careful not to stand out among the other swimmers, but there was just something about him. He seemed plain enough, but he somehow gave off an aura of wisdom; but also of having been wounded or broken, as if his spirit had at one time soared, before crashing to the earth. He seemed to have scars that were not visible, but Jack somehow perceived them nonetheless. He couldn’t help feeling like Daniel “knew things”.
“You know, Phil”, Jack said one day, “I wonder what Daniel’s story is. He’s really interesting, but he sure keeps to himself. He kind of reminds me of that fish, Gill, in “Finding Nemo”. You know – the old, wise, beaten, and scarred fish who had lived outside the aquarium for so many years, who knew about a bigger world, but was hesitant to share what he knew.”
“Well, Jack, I think I’d stay away from him. He’s expressed a few ideas that are, how do you say it, ‘outside the bay’; dangerous ideas if you ask me. I think he’s been places none of us wants to go. I even heard that he was banished from the bay many years ago, but he somehow came back. Not sure how that all works, and, I’ll tell you, I don’t want to know!”
Well, Jack was a pretty good guy – stable, cooperative, and supportive, but he did have this curious streak in him. Not only that, he somehow knew there was supposed to be more. He just felt drawn to know. Jack felt increasingly, deep inside himself, that he would eventually have to explore outside the bay, or at least underneath within the bay. Of course, he mostly shared everything with Diane, but these thoughts were so outside the norm that he withheld them for a while, even from her. He wasn’t sure how she would react, or even whether or not they were valid thoughts or feelings. After all, they had everything they wanted right here in the bay…well, almost everything. Yeah – he needed to sit on this for a while before he burdened Diane with such things.
One day, while casually swimming around, Jack just happened to find himself crossing
Daniel’s path. “Hey, Daniel”, Jack said. “How are you doing today? You know, I’ve often wanted to speak with you – get to know you a little better. You just seem like a guy who’s perhaps gone a little deeper into things, no pun intended, and I’d love to pick your brain.” Daniel looked warily at Jack. He had been approached by others before, and every time he began to talk about his experiences and beliefs, he ended up in council with the lifeguards, being told to keep his beliefs about what exists beyond the surface of the bay to himself. After all, “we don’t want to be encouraging people to do things that might prove dangerous or disharmonious”. So, Daniel was nervous about Jack’s approach, but there was something sincere and honest about him. He had likewise observed Jack from a distance, and something told him he could be trusted. He responded, “Well, thanks Jack. That’s very kind. There’s not really a lot to be told – I’ve just made some wrong turns here and there; got hurt, but learned a lot in the process. Most lessons come with a little pain, you know.”
“Yeah, Daniel, I guess so. I made my own share of mistakes before I found the bay. I’ve just been curious about a few things. As I’ve swam around the bay, I’ve wondered, ‘What’s underneath us? My intuition suggests that there’s a lot down there, but with this life jacket on, I can’t go down and see. You ever tried that – removing your life jacket and diving below to see what’s down there?”
“Jack, be careful there. I’d hate to tell you something that would potentially upset the harmony of the bay, or in your life, or cause others to question things. As I said, all knowledge – I mean real knowledge – comes at a price. It has often been said, especially here, be careful what you ask for.”
“Yep, I’ve sure experienced that, and often it’s very true. Thanks for the caution, but…boy, I sure feel drawn to know more. Plus, as I swim around, I just keep thinking that there is so much more to this bay, to this life, heck, maybe even beyond the bay, than what we can see from the surface.”
“Jack, you’re right. There is a lot down there, and out there. Most people can be perfectly happy swimming in the bay, floating with their life jackets, but you don’t seem to be that kind of person. I guess I wasn’t either. Still, it doesn’t do any good for me to tell you what I’ve learned or what I’ve experienced. You’ve had your own experiences out there, and you must continue on your own journey. Besides, look at me – I’m right back here in the bay, trying to stay out of trouble, to ‘not rock the boat’ so to speak. No, you need to figure these things out for yourself. What I will tell you is…keep asking. Keep thinking and pondering. Don’t be afraid to expand your paradigms a bit. Ask God for truth and understanding. Expect an answer, and don’t be afraid of truth. That may not sound like a magic formula, but, trust me, it’s a lot and it works, but it takes courage. Once you start seeing and opening up, you will be amazed at what the truth really is. Watch out, though. If you ever take off your life jacket, not only will you face opposition from the lifeguards and everyone else in the bay, but you will also discover that swimming is much more difficult and thus much more dangerous.”
Well, Jack was intrigued by the things Daniel had said. He spent months pondering, wondering what lay below in the depths, and what new things might await anyone who sought to approach the sun. He asked often for understanding. The answer, more often than not, was “Trust me. Relax. Seek and ye shall find.”
As Jack swam, day after day, wondering if there was more to be known and experienced, an emptiness began to manifest inside him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something – that there was more, a lot more, that he was supposed to learn, more that he was supposed to do. His own sense of truth told him that he had to do whatever it took to find it. Eventually, Diane noticed his increasing distress. Jack opened up, and they discussed the situation, and she decided to ask for herself. She got the same answers – “Trust Me. Relax. Seek and ye shall find”. Together they began to prepare themselves for the day when they would remove their life jackets, and take the next step in their search for truth.
One day they casually wandered to the outskirts of the bay and, while Jack kept watch, Diane slipped out of her life jacket and dove below the surface. At first, it was difficult just to get used to the sense of freedom, but as she dove deeper, and explored below, she was amazed at the beauty of the fish, the coral, the sun’s rays shining through the beautiful turquoise waters of their bay. As she resurfaced, Jack could see the astonishment in her face, and could hardly wait to take his turn. While Diane watched from the surface, Jack dove. He dove as deep as he could without drowning. He, too, was stunned by the beauty of what he saw. After he surfaced, he and Diane resolved to repeat this experience often.
At first, no one noticed their activity, but eventually people began to wonder why Jack and Diane spent so much time in the outer regions of the bay, and why they would seem to be alone – one without the other – so often. One day, Phil actually saw Jack slip out of his life jacket and dive below the surface. Immediately, he reported what he saw to the lifeguards. Jack and Diane were lovingly reprimanded: “Don’t you understand how dangerous it is for you to swim without the life jackets? Don’t you understand what a dangerous example you are setting for your fellow swimmers? Don’t you have faith in the life jackets, and in us, and in the rules that govern our bay? Look how happy you’ve been under our care!” Jack and Diane tried to explain what they had seen and experienced, but nobody listened. The couple was quite taken aback at the intensity of the reaction to their attempts to explore. They didn’t feel like they were doing anything wrong. They were just hoping to learn more about the bay that they lived in, where they had learned to be so happy. They initially had no desire to leave; only to experience all that the bay had to offer. They would not be deterred, though. They had seen too much, and they desired even more. Continued pondering and questioning simply increased their resolve. It wasn’t long, though, before they realized that one day they would have to leave the safety of the bay, and set out to follow the sun. They knew that whatever beauty lay beneath the surface of their bay would only continue to amaze and fulfill as they continued to explore, even beyond the confines of the bay itself. They loved the society of the bay, but they were being led to something greater. The sun beckoned, and they could no longer ignore its call.
Finally, one day, they knew it was time. They began to make their way quietly, deliberately, hopefully toward the outlet of the bay. They didn’t know what lay beyond, but they knew that they had to seek after that sun that provided their entire world with light. As they approached the outlet, they slipped out of their life jackets. The few who observed them called out, “No – Jack and Diane! Don’t do it! We love you! Don’t you know you could be lost forever?” By this time, though, Jack and Diane had the courage of angels. They somehow knew they would be protected by the power of the sun. They waved joyfully, saying, “We love you too. Tons! But we have to go.” Swimming was hard at first, but as they continued on, their strength increased. The waves, once so intimidating, seemed to calm. There was always danger – they no longer had the benefit of the shelter of the bay and the buoyancy of the life jackets – but neither were they limited as they had once been. They were free to seek after all the beauty and glory of the ocean. There was always turbulence, but they were strong, and they were lifted. Often, especially when they were tired, they would feel like they might have lost their way, wondering if they had made the right choice, but prayer and courage always brought them back. They knew the sun was out there, and they felt it beckoning. They constantly experienced its light as they swam toward it. They dreamed that they would some day reach it and experience its full glory. As they swam, as they searched, they would occasionally dive. The beauty of every dive was stunning, each time expanding their understanding and knowledge. In the meantime, they became stronger and stronger. No wave was too big, no current too strong for them to navigate. They began to feel at one with the ocean; with the sky, with the fishes, and with the sun, the moon, and the stars.
The story of Jack and Diane is yet to be finished. They continue to seek after the light generated by the sun. They hope to someday be able to share with others what they’ve learned. After all, what good is knowledge if it isn’t used to increase joy in oneself and in others? Every day they acquire greater strength, greater courage, greater knowledge, and greater love. They loved themselves, each other, and their world enough to risk all in the search for truth. The safety of the bay may be lost to them, but true faith, faith in the son, will still preserve them, as it will all who will truly seek Him.