The Tip of the Iceberg


One lovely August evening, I was sitting on our front steps enjoying the cool breeze when I noticed a family of eight ducks in the pond across the street gathering evening snacks. A few of the more adventurous played tag with the cascading water of the fountain.  As I watched, I became mesmerized by the fact that as these ducks paraded across this large pond, the surface of the water remained serene – unless a duck dipped his head into the water to chase a tasty bite. Their legs moved constantly and rhythmically but could not be seen.

That vision reminded me of the “chalk talks” I learned to give in a substance abuse counseling training program yearicebergs ago.  One of the talks was about the nature of addiction. The first thing we were taught to draw was an iceberg, with a line through the middle denoting how much of the iceberg could be seen and how much was invisible beneath the surface. The point was that in every addict there was more going on beneath the surface (anger, fear, pain, grief, loneliness, sorrow) than above. Family, friends, employers, law enforcement officers react to the visible signs (rage, irresponsibility, verbal and physical abuse, poor parenting, lies, spending money, etc.), but don’t understand the issues underneath.

Each of us has a life beneath the surface. Like the ducks, we can move along serenely enough that no one sees the turmoil underneath – maybe not even us!  Or like the addict we can work very hard to cover up our hurt and confusion – until we can’t anymore. Or we can consciously question what is going on below  the tip of our icebergs. What is really fueling our seemingly serene journeys through calm waters or our tumultuous navigation of stormy waters?

This questioning really requires a willingness to change our thinking and perceptions, an openness to the Holy Spirit, relationships with a loving community, and an intentional process. Addicts often find this in AA or NA and the Twelve Steps. Others can also use the Twelve Steps and/or a prayer of examen with a small group of accepting, forgiving, and vulnerable friends. The Apprentice of Jesus program is ideal for this.

Unless we go through this process, we will be propelled by unseen issues for our whole lives and wonder why we suffer from (and create in our relationships) unrest, anger, disappointment, grief, bitterness) – even as we hold dearly our Christian beliefs. God didn’t create us to live unhappy lives; Jesus promised us abundant life. But we have to cooperate with the  Holy Spirit to bring what lives below the surface  into the warmth and light of Jesus so he can melt it away.

This entry was posted in Living as Apprentices and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Tip of the Iceberg

  1. Thanks, Vernon! I love the Serenity Prayer’s view of all this. “God. give me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Whenever I can live close to this philosophy, my vision of a surrendered life comes closer to reality.

  2. Vernon says:

    Thanks. This morning I meditated on how the Holy Spirit and the 12 steps is teaching me how to accept what’s beneath the surface. I’m learning as a recovering addict most of my distorted beliefs have been there since childhood. Great post!

  3. Ruth Evenhouse says:

    Well said. Changing “stinking thinking” in order to step unto the light and experience an abundant life, is often hard work but so worth it!

Comments are closed.