On November 9, 2009, the New York Times reported a large, man-made area in the Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii, containing “(l)ight bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice.” This “area of widely dispersed trash . . . doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas.”Accompanying the article is a photo of a spotted gray trigger fish living inside a caulking tube within the floating continent of refuse. Adopting the tube as its personal space, the fish snapped at any creature, fish or human, approaching it.
If I am not careful, my spiritual life can be encapsulated in a similarly unnatural and poisonous milieu. Unlike the spotted fish, external forces are not the greatest danger to my life in Christ, but the practices and attitudes establishing me, rather than my creator, as the focal point of worship. Once ensconced in this self-centered terrain, I can be as dogmatic about retaining my poison-filled existence as the fish. I allow the familiarity of my spiritual lifestyle to trump its reality.
I am either forming my life in Christ or my life in the world. The mini-continent of pollution did not burst into existence overnight; it was formed through decades of daily contributions. Living the Christ-filled life requires a similar effort. In three different letters Paul refers to keeping our faith as a race that requires perseverance. To enable God’s spirit to increase in my life means to decrease the focus on myself. To love God with all my heart, soul and mind requires me to not allow anything else to have pre-eminence. I need his words to feed my soul and nourish this life I live in him, and I need his presence in prayer throughout my day to maintain his perspective on my life.
Unfortunately, there is another part to this story. The author notes that when a human or larger fish eats the fish that has eaten the plastic, the toxins within the smaller fish can be transferred to whatever consumes it. Sadly, this is true for my life, too. As Paul describes, I am a part of a body of believers whose lives in Christ influence each other. From the words of my interactions to the prayers I lift up for others, I can choose to share with my community of believers Christ’s truth and love, or I can encumber them with more detritus. Which will it be-- giving His grace, love and healing, or the poisons of tightly-held spiritual toxins?
Read the NY Times article: Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of TrashDo you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 1 Corinthians 9:24
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30