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Diving Below the Surface: Ducks and My Christian Life

Hooded Merganser Duck, William Wise Photography

[Originally published as Dabblers and Divers. It was published in January, those who live north of Georgia can switch out the season to observe the same birds.]

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 (The Message paraphrase)

Hooded Merganser Ducks diving, William Wise PhotographyThe Hooded Mergansers have finally arrived for the winter on the small pond behind my office. Not only are they so unlike our resident Mallards in appearance, sporting that black-and-white retractable crest, but they differ greatly in habit and action. That’s the difference between dabblers and divers!

When not cutting across the water for a free handout of bread, our trio of “green heads” stay along the edges of the pond, searching the shallows for aquatic vegetation and larvae. They are the dabblers. But the Mergansers! Those “hoodies” swim out to the middle of the pond and SPLASH!!!… they disappear, diving down to the depths. They are the divers. They go deep for those delectable bottom dwellers! Green Mallard Drake swimming, William Wise Photography

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When it comes to the Christian life, dabbling might be just enough to keep you alive until the next church service. But oh how much richer, how much more rewarding, to dive to the depths of sanctification and sacrifice. C.S. Lewis wrote:

This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea and there neither dive nor swim, but only to dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal.

William Wise Photography
Dabbling Mallard ducks, Walton County, Georgia. Dabbling ducks feed in shallow water for aquatic vegetation and larvae.

One observer of ducks wrote, “Dabbling ducks have the condition known as ‘duck butt.’ You look at them in the water and sometimes see no face, just a duck rear end sticking straight up in the air.”
And over the last twenty-six years of my salvation, I’ve observed that the church visitors or new converts that remain on the edge—only occasionally seeing their faces and merely dabbling in dedication—they usually migrate away at their season’s end never to return.

But the diver! The diver that abandons all to explore the depths of prayer, discipleship, ministry, evangelism, and the call of God, they repeatedly come with mouths full and to spare for others!

If you’ve been dabbling on the edges in your commitment to serve Christ and to serve in your local church, row out to the middle, step out of the boat, and dive in. I assure you, the water’s great!

That’s the difference between dabblers and divers!

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Written by William Wise

Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. William Wise Nature Notes is my wildlife and birding photo blog documenting the beauty, design and wonder of God’s creation. I am also a guest author at Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club . -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations." Psalms 104, The Message.

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  1. Another great article Mr. Wise! When Jesus was arrested, Peter followed at a distance and ended up denying Christ three times. We are all socially distancing ourselves right now during this pandemic, but some have been doing it with God all along. No relationship can be built by dabbling, you have to go deep if you want something solid. Thanks for the insight and encouragement!

  2. “Duck butt”!! LOL Definitely not something I would ever want to be used to describe me.
    Lord, take us all deeper!

  3. Great article! A very insightful way of using nature to bring a parallel to the Christian life. Beautiful photography.

  4. Great Post. I particularly enjoyed the comment and photo about the duck butt condition! That’s hilarious… and I must give my hearty amen to the comment above by Fred L., Lord take us deeper. I don’t want to be remembered as one who exemplifies the dreaded duck butt condition in my Christianity.

    • Yes, it seems like Duck Butt will be the new code word for the folks that don’t show their faces at church too much. “What happened to so-and-so?” “Oh, you know, he got duck butt.” LOL

  5. I love how you take God’s wonderful designs from the natural world and draw parallels with the human world, all the while teaching us valuable biblical lessons. Especially in these uncertain times of isolation from others, it really is imperative for us to deepen our relationship with God. Thanks so much for this timely encouragement!


    • Yes Caleb, this period of home islolation tests your relationship with God. It reveals if we do things out of the heart, or only because others are watching. It is also a test of our giving. If we stop giving because we aren’t going to church services or functions, that reveals a consumer mentality, rather than a giver mentality. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! William

  6. I love the duck butt part. I love how God’s nature always says something about God’s ways. Beautiful pictures. I will continue to participate in this ministry and share it with others. Thank you!!

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