“live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16
Gold panning is a process whereby one can extract that precious metal from other deposits. It is a rather simple method, low cost and accessible for all people to accomplish because of its simplicity.
The material you are wanting to extract is placed in a pan and shaken underwater in order to allow the heavier gold to sink to the bottom of the pan. As this is happening, “the lighter materials, which are worthless, are worked up to the surface of the gold pan where they can be swept away… Once you are out in the field, you will notice that no two people pan gold exactly alike. After you have been at it awhile, you will develop your own little twists and shakes to accomplish the proper result.” (goldgold.com)
Now, I am not a miner or even a gold enthusiast, but I am a seeker of the spiritual life, of all things divine and certainly of God’s will. The process of gold panning intrigued me as a way to understand the separation that occurs in the process of discernment in seeking God’s will, through the process of prayer, separating those things that are of myself, of my flesh and those that are of God. I imagine a vision of the fruit of my prayer floating to the bottom as does the heaviness of gold, and the light, worthless materials of my own flesh coming up to the surface so they can be swept away.
This process sounds romantic and fascinating but it is in fact a crucifying of the flesh. But what if we saw that crucifixion as something beautiful and necessary? What if we saw our souls floating to the bottom as gold and all of those precious metals as God’s gifts? It is quite the dichotomy to believe that the most expensive and precious of metals is found at the very bottom, when we search, when we seek, when we separate the unnecessary and the worthless.
This is the separation of flesh and Spirit
And sometimes a great chasm exists between the two; they are so opposed to one another that we cannot even sit down and take our mining pans out. Many of us are still figuring out how to do so, what that process looks like. But I love the thought that this process of panning for gold does not look the same for everyone. Yes, it is the same pan and we are searching for the same gold, but the way we do it as individuals is different, and as we learn, we develop our own way.
If you are struggling this Lent with prayer or focus or a burning question that you just can’t seem to get a grasp on, I invite you to come down to the river with me and bring your spiritual pan. Let’s place our questions, our fears and our desires in there and lower it down in the river for God to sort out. As I focus on my pan, you focus on yours. We will pray in the way we know how, talk to God or even sit quietly as we develop our way of shaking and moving the pan around. Then let’s watch as God takes over in that shaking and stirring to see where things land. Which of our prayers and desires ended up worthless and floating away and which rich and heavy sinking to the bottom of our souls as an anchor of our answers? Now isn’t this a beautiful way to imagine discernment, the crucifixion of our flesh?
You’ve been given instructions- now go do it!