There are two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish nods at them and asks “How’s the water?” The two young fish say nothing, and swim on for a bit. Eventually, one of them looks over at the other and asks, “What the heck is water?”
How much are we like the two young fish in this story? We live every day in a context, and one of the most pervasive features of a context is its invisibility to most of those living in it. We tend to be profoundly unaware of the nature of our environment, be it good, bad, or most likely, both.
Lao Tzu stated, “To know others is wisdom; to know oneself is enlightenment.” Certainly, the ability to self-reflect accurately, often called “insight,” and adjust one’s thinking and behavior appropriately is enlightening. There is great freedom in using accurate insight to index one’s behavior to the current environment, for this is how we come to live and move with greatest positive effect. To gain the greatest enlightenment and positive effect from self-reflection, one must understand the environment, the context for behavior. To use the parable of the fish, one must be aware of and paying attention to the “water.” If we are not accurately aware of the environment – the water in which we swim –the enlightenment of self-reflection will be of limited effect and dubious value. One might say that to know oneself is potential enlightenment, to know oneself and one’s environment is the most practical enlightenment.
The new covenant life to which we are called – our placement in Jesus and His Spirit in us – helps to illumine us as to how we should live as true disciples of Jesus. These new covenant realities expose and reveal the true nature of our environment. True new covenant living creates in us the ability to make sense of and respond to the “water” of our lives, which are lived in a world hostile to us. New covenant living will lead to better understanding of ourselves and our environment, and will begin to yield our best living as true disciples.
In light of what we have been learning of the new covenant (see previous posts) – the Holy Spirit living in us and our placement into Christ Jesus Himself – how should we order our thinking and living each day? Following (below and in the following post on this topic) are the new covenant priorities that will truly enlighten us and lead us into true discipleship.
Love for God above all other loves. This is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-38). Make it so in your daily experience. Speak love and worship to your God as soon as you awake each morning, before you drift off at night, and many times in between. Speak to Him about any weakness or selfishness in your love for Him, inviting Him to pour out His love in you (see Romans 5:5). Place reminders to express your love to Him around your environment. Create significant time for silence, solitude, and conversational communion in your daily living, and use it to express love. Make your praying about expressing love, ignoring the desire to ask your God to give you things, to tell Him how to run the world. He’s got that down. We know virtually nothing about running much of anything or about what we really need in life, for that matter.
While you are consciously in the presence of your God, remember to express how much He is worth to you; that is true worship. Recount His greatness, glory, goodness, and character traits. Praise His works, His patience, love, and mercy. Use the Psalms as a guide. Don’t play worship songs, for that is listening to others worship. Instead, sing true worship in the silence and solitude. I do this a lot while driving. No tunes on the radio, just worship in song and speech.
“The order in the Great Commandment is love for God before labor for God, allegiance to God before an assignment from God, intimacy with God before service for God.” ― Benjamin Sawatsky
The next post will continue with the next priorities that answer the question, “How Shall I Then Live?”