A Tale Of Two Seas
In his article entitled the Tale of Two Seas, author and communicator John Vaughan provides a powerful metaphor to help us contemplate the condition of our hearts.
“If you pull out the maps in the back of a Bible or online, and look at the Jordan River over Israel, you will see that it sources two different bodies of water: the smaller Sea of Galilee to the north and the larger Dead Sea to the south.
If you’ve done any reading of the Bible, you recognize that much activity occurs in and around the Sea of Galilee in the life of Jesus described in the New Testament. Throughout history, towns and cities have been situated on this sea, and it has served as a center of trade. Fish and plant life are abundant in the area. In stories recorded in the gospels, Jesus and the disciples travel by boat all around the Sea of Galilee, meeting people, fishing its waters, and participating in the local culture.
Contrast that with the body of water known as the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is just that: dead. It’s a lake in which nothing swims or grows. It is extremely salty and is a harsh environment in which animals, plants, and other aquatic organisms cannot flourish. In Hebrew writings, the Dead Sea is simply called the “sea of death.”
Both of these bodies of water are sourced by the same fresh waters of the Jordan River. But they are opposites in their environment and impact on the life and people around them. What’s the difference? The Jordan River sources the Sea of Galilee, and the Sea of Galilee’s waters are then in turn used to source most of the population centers in Israel. Every drop of water that comes into the Sea of Galilee from the Jordan River flows back out to the people and land around. The Sea of Galilee serves as the source of much of the drinking water of the country. The Dead Sea, by contrast, is a dead end. The Jordan’s waters pour into the Dead Sea only to come to their termination point, and as the Jordan’s life-giving stream comes to a stop at the Dead Sea, it loses its vitality and sustaining qualities.
While the same waters feed both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, it’s only when the waters are used and active and moving that they retain their productive, life-giving value. The Sea of Galilee gives back out what it is receiving from the Jordan River, while the Dead Sea is just a dead end, and every drop it gets, it keeps.”
Both of these bodies of water have sufficient inflow to sustain life and share an abundance with others. One allows what flows in to freely flow out. The other exists only for itself and has become stagnant, toxic, and meaningless.
Each of us must make a choice which sea we will be: The life-giving Sea of Galilee, or the life-consuming Dead Sea. We are not the living water of the Jordan River. The love of Jesus is. We are merely a conduit (much like a siphon), holding loosely to the blessings of God and allowing them to flow from us just as freely as they have flowed to us.
Everything Begins in The Heart
All of our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors originate from our hearts. In his book, The Search for Significance, Robert McGee describes this internal hierarchy “hard-wired” within each of us. I’ve taken the liberty to add elements to it, while being careful not to compromise the author’s original intentions.
There are five elements that are instrumental in the formation of every plant, whether beautiful and productive like a rose bush or apple tree or aggravating and undesirable like a dandelion. Metaphorically, the same components are present in our lives. The enemy goes to great lengths to cultivate weeds of sin, shame, and self in our lives. Our new life as a Christ-follower fosters the inborn, God-given nature (temperament) within each of us, and leads us toward the very purposes for which He placed us on this earth.
- HEART – The Soil. In the same way the condition of the soil ultimately affects the plant’s fruitfulness, the condition of our hearts leads us either to a life motivated by performance, approval, punishment, and shame, or an exciting journey defined by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control as God intends for us.
- BELIEFS – The Roots. In the same way the plant’s roots anchor the nature, growth, vitality, function, and yield of the plant, our deeply held beliefs influence the presence or absence of the healthy identity, maturity, passion, purpose, and impact that God intends for our lives.
- THOUGHTS – The Leaves. In the same way the leaves of every plant feed the plant’s needs for nourishment through the miraculous process of photosynthesis, our thoughts are the part of our humanness that exchanges conscious and subconscious information with our environment, establishing our place of significance, competence, and belonging amidst our surroundings.
- EMOTIONS – The Stems. In the same way the stems of every plant transport nutrients to create the blossom of the plant, our emotions impartially transport feelings and emotions that initiate our externalized actions and reactions.
- BEHAVIORS – The Blossoms. In the same way the blossom of a plant is merely a dependent result of the other components carrying out their functions, our behaviors and choices merely reveal the influence our life experiences have had on our beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.
Something I have learned through counseling thousands of men and women over a long period of time is the necessity of addressing our false, unhealthy, and toxic, beliefs first and foremost. It is ludicrous for us to think we can meaningfully change or improve our actions, decisions, feelings, or thoughts without examining and redefining the beliefs and environmental factors that influence them.
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