Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On Oil Spills and Heart Health

This morning I was reading Psalm 103. David begins, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." His words, "my inmost being" got me thinking. Why so much attention to the inmost self? The inmost self is the interior me. It's that part of me that no one else sees. It is the hidden me, veiled to the human eye, but nevertheless of vital importance. In ancient Hebrew literature, sometimes the inmost place is referred to as the "heart" or the "eye." Simply put, the inmost place is the place most real to us, the center that defines us, orients us and animates our lives. On one occasion Jesus said that it is from this center, this core place that relational toxins like, "evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander" come forth (Matt. 15:19). No wonder David said earlier in Psalm 51, "You Lord desire truth in the inner parts, you teach wisdom in the inmost place." (Ps. 51:6).

Since it's so much in the news today the question occurred to me, "What does the BP oil spill in the Gulf teach me about my interior life?" At the time that I am writing this blog we are in the 51st day of the Gulf Oil Disaster. Undoubtedly the ecological and environmental consequences of this catastrophe will far exceed any of the previous disasters. In the early days when we were first learning about the oil spill in the Gulf, the public was misinformed. BP Executives grossly underestimated in their initial reports the severity of the situation. Now we are learning that in spite of sophisticated attempts to plug the well, it continues to spew upwards of 25,000 barrels of oil every 24 hours. Do the math--a barrel contains approximately 40 gallons of oil equalling 1,000,000 gallons of oil dumping into the Gulf every 24 hours. Scientists tell us that the oil is pouring forth from a source more than a mile below the surface of the ocean. At first, the effects of the oil spill remained secluded, buried and out-of-view from the public eye. But now in its fifty-first day, the whole world knows what was once hidden. What was innermost in the ocean floor is now uppermost in people's minds. The once beautiful azure and turquoise waters of the Gulf are now laced and stripped with currents of brown, oily pollutants. Pristine sandy beaches are being threatened, marine life is being drenched with petroleum, fishing industries have suffered, and the livelihoods of thousands have been affected. And now weather scientists are predicting an unusually severe hurricane season raising the strong possibility that the toxic mass now present in the Gulf will be carried by the loop current up the Atlantic seaboard. All of this because, what originated in the inmost place of the ocean floor has now reached the surface.

What does an environmental disaster teach me about the spiritual life? For one, whenever I ignore the "inmost" place, I run the very real risk of setting the stage for the release of harmful pollutants and toxins into my relational world, my ethical world and my spiritual world. Whenever I cut corners devotionally, ignore divine standards morally and fail to monitor my heart personally, it's only a matter of time before what was once hidden and concealed from the public eye eventually rises to the surface. Usually by that time the damage is already done.

S t r e t c h e d