Skipping Stones—Mastering the Art of Living on the Surface

I remember as a kid standing at the river’s edge trying to master the art of skipping stones. I hunted for smooth, flat stones and then, with a snap of my wrist, I sent each one flying over the surface of the water, counting the points of impact until its final splash and disappearance to the bottom of the river bed.

As a kid it seemed like an incredible feat—to keep something on the surface, even momentarily, which by its sheer weight (and the law of gravity) must go deeper.

Today more than ever, it seems many of us have mastered the “art of skipping stones”, of living merely on the surface and not allowing ourselves and the weightier matters of life, to descend to the depths for which they were intended.

This age of technology, for all its wonderful conveniences, doesn’t help. One would think that with all the constant information available to us we could plummet the depths of understanding about particular topics and even master some new skills. Yet there is so much information coming at us—from ancient to new, profound to trivial, interesting to insipid, that it is simply overwhelming and impossible to take it all in.

And so we skim the surface. We scan the Twitter feeds, opt for blog posts over books and periodicals, and if we are really adept at skimming, we just read pull-out quotes and headings, feeding on these tiny morsels as if they are enough to satisfy our deeper hunger for knowledge.   

More profound than our desire to know, is our need to be known. These two intense desires account for the proliferation of social media. Every status report, every post, every photo (even the most inappropriate ones), every video, cries out: “Know me! This is who I am, who I want to be, who I want you to think I am.” But it only skims the surface; it cannot convey the depth of emotion, the nuance of a word, and the power of touch necessary for deeper human connection. Visual and verbal information are only stones skimming the surface. We need honest, face-to-face, body-to-body connection to be truly known. We cannot just choose the smoothest stones and fling them upon the surface of life—posting selfies and statuses of flawless faces and perfect parties—and expect to feel like anyone really knows us.

Even deeper than our need to be known, is our longing to be accepted and loved. Social media and electronic communication can provide the perfect mediums to hide our true selves and lower the risk of rejection. We can begin and end a “relationship” on Facebook or via texting, but is it really possible to grow authentic love and friendship? Again, we learn to master the art of skimming the surface. We reduce our feelings and thoughts to a few words, striving for pithy, clever statements, or hijacking phrases from popular songs or movies. There is nothing wrong with effective written communication but if we are primarily using this as the foundation or even building blocks of love and acceptance, we are building on shifting sands.

Only God himself can fill our deepest yearning for love and acceptance. If we’ve mastered the art of skimming the surface, there’s a good chance we’ve learned how to do it in our relationship with God as well. Personal, intimate connection with God requires time spent in acquiring true knowledge of Him—not just by reading inspirational quotes or blog posts, but weightier spiritual reading and daily diving into the Scriptures. We need face-to-face time with Jesus, away from the noise of electronics into the quiet of a chapel. We need to stop trying to impress him or earn his love with our outward piety and acts of service and just be broken and messy before him so we can know his unconditional love and mercy. We need to talk to him and we need to listen. We need to allow our surface level faith and love for him to grow deeper by putting in the time and effort it takes to build any authentic relationship.

Skipping stones is a fun way to pass the time but we are made for more—to go deeper within ourselves, with one another, and most importantly with our Creator. Let’s not just stand at the river’s edge, but let’s dive in deep and live below the surface where true life and love can only be found.

Debbie Herbeck is a wife and mother of four amazing young adults and three adorable grandchildren. She loves to talk and write and scheme about all things related to love. In her rare spare time she likes to garden, play tennis and travel. 

Image via Gillian Stevens