We live immersed in God. Although greater freedom, joy and compassion come from realizing our life in God, we rarely know God’s fullness. Tragically, too often we don’t recognize the radiant saving wonder of God. We overlook the utter beauty of human life arising in God’s life. Then we miss out on ways of responding to the immense suffering – and joy – of the world from the transformation that comes as we discover our life in God and our unity with everyone and everything. Too often what keeps us from God are scientism and consumerism that reduce the great mystery of life to meager materialism. Equally limiting is a fundamentalist approach to religion based only in rules and externals – the kind of religiosity that Jesus himself inveighed against in his own world, 2,000 years ago.
It is as if we were fish who are told about something called water. The fish hear that water sustains their life, and are taught to look up for it above them, beyond the surf and waves, falling from the sky. But the only way to find water, they are told, is in something called rain. They never fully taste rain because the drops seem to disappear as they come towards them. The water remains external, beyond them in another realm far above.
But, what if the fish learned that water is actually very close? What if the fish discovered that water is actually within them? As science now says, their seemingly solid bodies are actually about 80% liquid. And – even more – what if they realized that the ocean they are in all the time really consists of what they are seeking in rain. Rain is but one external form of something far greater. Water is not only above them. Water is in them and they are in water, all the time. Then they could also appreciate that rain, too, is water, without feeling permanently separate from it.
Something similar happens for human beings. That is, for us, with God, from the perspective of Jesus’ teachings on contemplation and the fullness of his identity as the Christ, the manifestation of God. Like the fish seeking rain, we humans often look for God outside of us. We may be told that God is only above us, in a distant sky. So we cast the words of our prayers towards another realm, searching for eternity in distant drops of rain.
But God is more like water than merely like rain. The life-giving waters of God are within us, now. And our life is actually in God; just as a fish’s whole existence is within the vast waters of the ocean. If the fish tries to live outside the water it is always in, even in the air where rain is, it dies. And our own life can seem dead to ultimate meaning without God. We just need to realize it and let this realization transform us. We need to let go of futilely searching for God above us, outside us, beyond us, outside our ordinary human existence. Then we too, like the fish, can appreciate and enter into relationship with the God who is beyond us. Contemplation is what brings about this realization and this transformation.