It goes without saying that we are completely dependent on the language of metaphor to be able to communicate with any clarity. Often we overuse certain metaphors to the extent that they lose some of their power. For example, think about the expression “like a fish out of water.” We’ve used these words so often that they have come to simply refer to a feeling of awkwardness or discomfort in a strange situation. But, think about the fish that has just between caught—the fish that is flopping around on a dock or pier, or in the floor of a boat. That fish is not awkward or uncomfortable. That fish is desperate—quickly dying! I get a little short of breath just thinking about that scene!
There are times when we search around for different metaphors for describing what we understand about God or the human relationship with God. In his book The Experience of God, Raimon Panikkar speaks of how human beings are surrounded by God like fish are surrounded by water. We are “drenched” in God as fish are drenched in water. The problem is that we don’t recognize or we forget that we are drenched. We forget that God is that fully present with us—longing for us to know how completely we are incorporated into God’s own being. When we forget, we may find ourselves flopping around and feeling desperate—like a fish out of water.