By Anthony Casperson
Okay, be honest. How many of us are feeling overwhelmed already this holiday season? Strained relationships. Travel. Cooking a bunch of food. Hitting the sales. General holiday busyness. Stress. Anxiety. Too much to do with too little time.
Maybe there are some reading this who are feeling underwhelmed too. A sense of love-less-ness that leads to loneliness. Annoyance at the under-performance of others. Not enough of the basic necessities to go around. Too little to carry us through this much.
And this is just the beginning. We still have about a month of this to go.
There’s too much or too little of so many things. Overwhelmed and underwhelmed. But thinking about this made me ask a question: “Is there such a thing as being whelmed?” Are we doomed to live in a world of too hot or too cold, without a just right?
So, I looked up the definition of “whelm” and found out that this under-utilized word actually does exist. It carries the idea of being “engulfed, immersed, buried.” Yet this makes it sound as if this is just another way of saying overwhelmed. As if this middle ground of whelm is just a disguise for overwhelm to not feel so excessive.
But then I looked at those last two words of the definition again and saw an interesting connection in the life of a follower of Jesus. There’s something in the Christian life that also carries with it the idea of being immersed and buried.
The immersion of a person in a body of water—which represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus—that we followers of Jesus enact as a symbol in order to show our fellowship with the community of God.
And is also a means to publicly announce our life of devotion to Jesus. A signpost in our journey with Jesus as we grow in godliness and holiness.
Our life is meant to be lived engulfed in the goodness of God. To be immersed in his holiness. And to be buried in his love.
It’s not the too much of the world’s striving. Not the drowning of oppression to be on the “right” side of history. Nor is it the too little of the world’s comfort. Not the suffocation of loneliness that we get after pushing away every objector to our self-made “good.”
With God, we followers of Jesus can live a life of being whelmed. A life of “just right” even though we still have to deal with the over and the under of the world.
If we look at a few verses of Colossians 2, we can see this idea shown to us from the bible. Paul calls we followers of Jesus to walk in the ways of Jesus in verse 6. And continues in the next verse by explaining what this walking in Jesus looks like. We are to be rooted and built up in him. To have him be what grounds us and lifts us up. And this is possible because of our foundation of faith in the truth about him that we learn.
All of this leads us to an abounding in thanksgiving. (Feel the elbow nudge. And see the wiggling eyebrows. “Eh, eh. Thanksgiving.”)
When we continue to verse 8, we see that the basic principles of the world—the human traditions, philosophies, and lies—will only lead to captivity. To the chains of too much or too little.
But instead, according to verses 9-10, we followers of Jesus find this fullness—this whelmed-ness—when we walk with the one who is the fullness of God in bodily form. Namely, Jesus.
He is the one we have been buried with through our baptism—as verse 12 says. And raised with through the amazing power of God. Immersed so that we might be brought to a new life devoted to him and his ways. And buried so that we might be freed from our slavery to sin and the basic principles of this world.
It’s when we focus on the glory of God and our growth in him that the difficulties and trials of this world seem as insignificant as they really are in the grand scheme of things. And we allow God to keep us at the depth of immersion that is just right.
We followers of Jesus are called to a life of whelmed-ness. One engulfed in the power of our Creator as we grow to be more like him. Not the deathly flooding of the world. Nor the arid drought that leads to dying of thirst. But the just right of living immersed in our amazing God.
In this season of overwhelming circumstances and underwhelming situations, let’s remember that there is something much better available to us.
With Jesus, we can live whelmed.