If I told you I have two completely paid trips for you to enjoy a vacation on an archipelago, you may not be so excited.
But if I told you I have two all-expenses-paid trips to Hawaii, now you might think I am a very good friend.
Hawaii is an archipelago. And it serves as a short geography lesson that becomes a metaphor to understand character formation.
An archipelago is a series of islands that are connected underneath the water. They are formed by volcanic overflow as volcanoes on the ocean floor erupt and the lava builds up. The lava build up is uneven. As it continues over a long period of time, the lava builds up above the surface of the water and the result is an island. Or many islands. Or a string of islands, which we call an archipelago.
The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands. Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.
By comparison, Hawaii has only 137 islands. Not all of these Hawaiian islands are created equal. Some are much larger than others. In the Hawaiian chain, there are 8 major islands and perhaps another 12-15 smaller islands, sometimes called islets. And then there are atolls (a special type of island). There are seamounts. A seamount is a landmass that has not been able to rise above the ocean level. It is still underwater, although it may be very near the surface.
But underwater, they are all connected.
Do you see the parallels to character formation?
Character erupts from the heart. The lava of spiritual and moral life builds up and rises from your inner world (what the Bible calls the heart) and it manifests itself in actions, words, and relational behaviors (Matthew 15:16–20). As these manifestations continue, they become habits of the heart and are the character islands of your life.
These heart eruptions continue to happen all through life as the powerful work of the Spirit superheats you inside. Sometimes it seems like the activity is minimal. Other times the heart is churning and Spirit-pressure is building up, and soon molten character surges upward. When it seems like not much is happening, the Spirit is preparing for the next emergence.
Some of your islands (particular virtues) are larger than others. That is to be expected. There are many virtue islands. Some are well formed in you, others are like the smaller islets. They are there but not as strong. And there are others that are on the rise, but they are still submerged like the seamounts. But as the Spirit eruptions continue, the virtue mass grows and surges upward.
But please understand this: The archipelago character of your life will look different from that of your spouse or friend or coworker. We all have different character strengths. And that is the theme of tomorrow’s post.