"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"
The calling and direction of the Lord is often a mysterious thing. Looking back, we sometimes cannot identify how the stirring or desire or the very thought of a new calling first entered our lives, but we find ourselves standing on a new sea, somehow desiring, beyond all common sense, to leap out of the boat into deep waters.
All of creation cries out the glory of our God, its Creator and Sustainer, but I wonder if anything more clearly speaks of God and the depth of His being or the perilousness of following Him in faith than deep, tumultuous waters. The Israelites, in escaping oppression in Egypt, had to cross the Red Sea. Then, again, they had to dip their toes in the Jordan at flood stage in order to obtain possession of the land the Lord had promised them. Peter, in that infamous moment of daring failure, begged Jesus to let him experience walking on water with Him. The Lord's voice is described as the sound of rushing waters, He used the flood waters to bring judgment on the earth in Noah's day, and our walk with Jesus in this life is marked by our immersion in the waters of baptism.
Water can be terrifying, especially to someone who has never learned how to swim or when a storm stirs the sea into a swirling frenzy, but water can also be liberating. We can float and enjoy a weightlessness than cannot be experienced on dry land. Water can destroy, but it is also absolutely necessary for life.
The Lord has begun a new work in our family, and as I stand at the edge of the water, I am both terrified and exhilarated. My in-laws have a beautiful home and boat house on a river, and their boat house sits in very deep waters. There is no beach or opportunity to wade in. It's all or nothing. You can stand safely on the boat house or you can daringly plunge into the deep waters. Jack, who is so much like me, met with a great battle last summer. It is a delight to many who visit this boat house to jump off the second level, which stands above their boat lift, many feet in the air. Each summer, some people race to experience the thrilling fall into the deep waters, and others are dared to face their fears in taking that same plunge.
Poor Jack has been blessed with my sense of fear, yet he has that desire that all of us do, to experience the exhilaration that we see others, more daring than us, enjoying. He faced what seemed to the rest of us an hours-long internal battle: To jump or not to jump. I, being his always rational and never patient mother, tried to reason with him. "Either close your eyes and take the plunge or just forget about it, walk down the steps, and go play with everyone else. You don't have to jump."
But he did. He did have to jump. He was experiencing that internal battle that no one save him alone could fight. The joy he saw others experiencing and that inward desire born in all of us to embrace life to the fullest was compelling him forward. Yet the fear he felt as he looked off that tall, tall precipice paralyzed him. He could find no peace until he met that fear, yet it seemed too great to face. While I was extremely frustrated, to say the least, as I watched him agonize, whine, and even cry for what seemed like an eternity, I knew what he was facing. I have been there so many times.
When the Lord calls us into a deeper fellowship with Him, it always involves faith. From that very first moment of salvation to every subsequent step of the journey we take with Him, He asks us to trust, to step out in faith, to take a risk on Him, to believe that facing the fear will be worth it. For a lover of comfort and security like me, this can be torture. I can look out at others on their journey and see the sweet intimacy and joy they experience as they step out in faith, trusting the Lord for the scary stuff, over and over again. I want that. I want to know Him like they know Him. But so often, the fear paralyzes me. Unlike reckless Peter, I am scared to even get out of the boat. I am scared of sinking in the waves, as Peter did. Yet Peter is the only person, that I know of, who has experienced walking on the water with the Water-Maker.
After tears and countless moments of agony and counting the cost, Jack finally decided to leap. That little, terrified boy found the courage in one brief moment to fling himself into the air, to leave the security of the land for the experience of the freedom and thrill of falling through the air and plunging into the deep water. We all cheered and celebrated with him, for it was a victory for all of us! (The whining was over!) And what do you think he proceeded to do after that first daring jump? He jumped no less than fifty more times in that same day. I am not exaggerating. One taste of the thrill of freedom and faith and he was hooked.
(Apparently, I did not capture photos of Jack jumping last year! But to give you an idea, here are some pics of his thrill-seeking big sister jumping a couple of years ago.)
But isn't that what walking with the Lord does to all of us? Those first, faith and fear-filled steps are so terrifying, yet so addicting. When we know and experience the Lord by trusting Him in scary places, it is an intimacy and a fellowship like nothing else. Though the fear never completely leaves us, we want more. We cannot walk away from the edge of the deep waters, because we know that, if we can only find the faith to leap, we will experience such glorious freedom and thrill of the mystery of God being revealed.
The irony of the whole situation with Jack is that he was wearing a life jacket. He was really in no danger at all! Though the experience might have felt terrifying, there was no reason to fear. His life was secure. That is the reality of our faith journey with the Lord as well. We perceive stepping out in faith to be scary, but there is truly no more secure place for us to walk, eternally and spiritually speaking. The hand of the Lord, whose voice is like rushing waters, who could easily walk on water Himself, carries us at all times, assuring us that He will never let us go. No wonder Jesus said to Peter, as he started to let his human fear of earthly circumstances overcome him, "You of little faith!" Peter had forgotten that the One who spoke the waters into being and told them where to stop was the One with whom he was walking.
I am standing at the edge of deep waters. Sometimes the fear of failure and the struggle ahead wakes me up at night. Other times my heart leaps with excitement, knowing that, whatever the earthly outcome or the perception of failure or success in others' eyes, His grace will abound in these deep waters and that my faith will be made stronger. Until we trust Him to take us deeper, we will never experience the joy and thrill of resting in His presence as we were meant to do.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
...the Lord said to Joshua..."Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them...Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:1-2, 9