The Deep Ground

Charles Kiser —  October 4, 2011 — 3 Comments

I had an insightful conversation recently with Randy Harris about the spiritual life.

Randy, giving credit to the work of Martin Laird in Into the Silent Land, described three postures of discipleship.

“The first operates from up here,” Randy said, moving his hand up by his head. “Here we work out of our brilliance, out of our giftedness, out of our understandings.”

I suspect that most young people (twentysomethings down) take this posture in life and discipleship. Perhaps this suspicion is rooted in my own admission that I’ve lived most of my life out of this posture – and, as you’ll see, it’s nothing to be proud of.

“The second [posture] operates from here,” moving his hand back and forth further down by his chest. “Here we work out of a keen awareness of our own brokenness, our limitations, our struggles and turmoil.”

In the past few years habitual patterns of sin (like anger, pride and lust) moved me to this posture of discipleship. It reminds me of the words of a graduate school professor who said that we twentysomething seminarians needed a few more years of struggling with sin so that we could recognize the depth of humanity’s brokenness (and our own).

“There’s a third way that operates from here, ” Randy said as he moved his hand down by his waist in the chair he was sitting in. “We hardly have language to describe this place. So few find it. It is the deep ground of God.”

“What exactly is this deep ground?” I asked.

“It’s God. It’s God in us. It’s your true self. It’s the Holy Spirit. It’s silence. It’s the place where you stare down your brokenness in silence and tell it to back off. It’s the Center.”

He’s right – I’m not sure even how to describe it. But I think it’s the place where we discover God. Where we encounter God. And after the encounter, where we sit in deep peace.

I’ve only touched the edge of the deep ground’s garment in my life – if that.

The key, Randy says, is to find the deep ground of God in contemplation (silence) and then begin to live out of it in every moment of our daily lives. That journey lasts a lifetime.

Laird adds that “union with God not something we are trying to acquire; God is already the ground of our being.” The real issue in finding the deep ground is to realize that “we live, move and have our being in God” – that we, in fact, are already rooted in the deep ground, though not consciously aware of it.

The extent to which we realize we are rooted is God is the extent to which we live out of the deep ground. Such realization is the work of contemplation and silence.

I’m eager to find this deep ground. It’s exciting to think that the deep ground is as deep as God is big, and that I can spend the rest of my life exploring it.

What about you? In what ways do you identify with these three postures of discipleship? Which posture are you currently living out of?

Charles Kiser


I’m a pastor, missionary, and contextual theologian in Dallas, Texas. I’m committed to equipping and coaching Christians to start fresh expressions of Christian community in Dallas County — communities of hospitality, inclusion, justice, and healing.

3 responses to The Deep Ground


    I also had an opportunity to hear Randy speak of these things last week.

    He said that most of us have two problems:
    1. We don’t always work out of the deepest part of ourselves, and
    2. The deepest part of ourselves is often not deep enough.

    He emphasized that there are no short cuts to developing this “deep ground” and no substitute for spending tons of time in silence before and with God.

    In his book “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell cites research that shows it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to be exceptionally proficient in something. Randy wondered how that might be related to the time needed in prayer and meditation to effectively live out of the deep ground of God.

    In the life of Jesus you see a rhythm of time spent in solitude and prayer, followed by a time of ministry, followed by more solitude with God, followed by more ministry, etc. (See Luke 4, 5, & 6).

    These thoughts force me to ask myself at least two questions:
    1. Just how much time do I really spend in prayer and…
    2. If Jesus needed to spend time away and alone with God, how much more do I?


      Great comment, Tommy. One thing I love about people like Randy is that they often have a very specific commitment to a certain amount of time in contemplative prayer every week – the way a runner would have specific mile goals for marathon training. I think we’d all benefit from such a commitment to time in silence and prayer. Many of us would probably have to start small, the way a new runner would start by running a half mile or 1 mile, but our endurance soon builds.


    I agree with you Charles, that most 20somethings live out of their heads in the first posture. When I was in my early 20s, I was discovering God (as opposed to religion) for the first time, and I wanted to learn all I could about him. This enthusiasm quickly gave way to a spirit of superiority, dogmatism and elitism as my level of knowledge quickly exceeded my spiritual maturity. This led to a downfall in my late 20s, which brought be face to face with the uncomfortable reality that I was just as sinful and broken as the next person – and perhaps even more so. I feel like I’m living in the second posture now, struggling through that reality and the hard work that it takes to change my beliefs and values to align with God’s. Looking over my experiences, though, it becomes obvious to me that the reality of the “deep ground” has always been there, as I have not stopped growing despite my failures and lack of faithfulness. I look forward to living in this reality more and more; maybe I have that to look forward to in my 40s? 🙂

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