We had the incredible opportunity of scuba diving at a reef along the Kenyan coast this summer. Following a trial in a pool and a safety briefing, we headed out to the boat which took us to the reef. As we climbed aboard all our scuba gear was neatly laid which made the whole experience suddenly feel very real. The boat drove out to the reef, and we were helped as we strapped the heavy gas tanks to our backs, slipped on comically large flippers and placed the breathing mask into our mouths. One big splash and we were in. We checked that we were all breathing fine through our masks and down we went, 1m… 2m… 3m… soon reaching 11 metres down, and it was worth it. There were huge sky-scraping corals covered in tropical fish of ever colour, size and shape. As I looked around I was an awe of this underwater metropolis. The diver looking after me took me beyond the reef and onto the sandy sea bottom. We swam a few metres and then he gave the signal to stop and be silent. Within a few seconds a large shoal of fish circled around us, it was magical. I knew that this was a once in a life time experience, and I treasured every moment.
We got to know some of the divers, and on one car journey a diving instructor revealed that they are trying to educate some of the locals about ecology and the coral reef on their door step because they cannot afford to visit the reef and discover life under the sea for themselves. He explained that 15 minutes in a classroom showing pictures of the reef was good but not the same as experiencing the life in the sea right in their back garden. I had the privilege of visiting their reef and experiencing the beauty of God’s creation undersea, and yet many of the locals who were day in and day out walking along the beach had no such experience. I was contemplating my privilege and how I could share it, but what also stood out was what several Kenyans had mentioned to me throughout our travels, that a few minutes of teaching can’t change a generation. Be it at a nature reserve educating about ecology and sea life, or in a church encouraging faithfulness to God and to each other, what we learn needs to impact how we live our daily lives.
The Hebrew word for wisdom is Khokhmah, which means applied knowledge or as the Bible Project phrase it, ‘Practical skills for living well in God’s world’ (Bible Project, Proverbs video). Wisdom is what the diving instructor in Kenya was after for those he loved in his local community and wisdom is what God is inviting us to. Knowledge impacting action. Teaching is needed for the passing on of knowledge, but is a short sermon, or even a reflection like this one really going to bring wisdom? And in our secular western world will it change a generation? It may provide the knowledge but is it applied in a way that imbeds wisdom? When I was in the waters, news of protecting sea life and the coral they rely on was no longer a picture or thought in mind, it was made very real by experiencing the beauty of the underwater world. When I experience God’s presence in prayer and worship, in creation, through the love of another… that’s the knowledge that sticks like glue to my daily life, it has such a greater chance of impacting my daily life and becoming wisdom.
But do we want wisdom for each other? Do we really want to be challenged and changed by God? How are we receiving teaching? How are we teaching others? Are we introducing each other to the transformative and immersive experience of God’s presence?
Jo Allen Director, South West