(Because wisdom and encouragement never gets old, this month we’re sharing a note from Cathe’s archives. Be blessed!)
Call me out to deeper waters
Losing sight of safety’s shore
For Your Word my heart is open
I’m ready now . . . to hear Your voice
—Lyrics from Simply Jesus by Sheryl Briggs
It’s been a number of years since Elizabeth Elliott, author of the Christian classic Through Gates of Splendor, was our retreat speaker. We had just finished singing our hearts out with songs about surrendering everything to follow Jesus. This seasoned saint we had admired from afar walked up to the pulpit with her well-worn Bible, looked out at our expectant faces, and began her talk with a probing question.
“Do you really understand what you are saying when you sing such words?” She paused for emphasis and continued, “Are you willing to go wherever God may lead you?”
I was in my thirties at the time, a young pastor’s wife and mother. She was in her thirties once—a young mother and missionary’s wife when her husband, Jim, was martyred by the Auca Indians in eastern Ecuador. It was in those deep waters of her experience of God that she came to know the grief and joy, the cost and reward, of following Christ wherever He may lead.
Ever since then, when singing certain hymns and worship songs, I think about her challenge: “Do you really mean what you are singing?”
I love to read stories of saints in Scripture and the biographies of great Christians that line my bookshelf. I admire their sacrifice and dedication. But it was years before I understood (even though Scripture never hid the fact) that they too, at times, were scared to lose sight of safety’s shore. They were ordinary people of “like passions” as we are, not superheroes.
Fear of going deeper reminds me of something that happened one summer.
Deep and Mysterious
Stella stood on the shore looking hesitantly at her mother in the waist-deep water. At seven years old, she was a good swimmer. She’d been competing on a swim team for two years and loved it. But this was different than swimming in a pool at the park.
The ocean was deep and mysterious, a big place full of unfamiliar living things. She listened, wide-eyed, as I told her about an elegant, spotted eagle ray that glided past and gently brushed my leg with its soft fin. She watched a giant sea turtle pop its head out of the water to gulp some air, only to disappear under the waves.
Now we were asking her to leave her sandcastles to venture into the deep water.
“Stella, come out here. You’ll love it. You’re missing out. There are some amazing colorful fish out here!”
“Stella, they aren’t going to bother you. I promise they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”
When encouraging and persuading proved ineffective, Brittany waded to shore, picked up Stella in her arms, and carried her out. At first, she clutched her mom’s neck and refused to put her face in the water. But eventually she gave in, overcame her fear, and was soon captivated by the beauty and wonder under the sea.
Little Lucy and I watched from the shore as her mom and sister swam away. We watched them swim side by side, Brittany’s arm resting reassuringly across Stella’s shoulders, their flippers moving in rhythm. Suddenly, Stella popped her head up and gleefully shouted back to us, “Lucy! It’s really, really cool. You should come in!”
Remember what is true.
What do I do when God is calling me deeper and I’m afraid? I try to remind myself of what I know is true.
If Christ is first in my life, I know I will find security, serenity, and significance in the will of God. If God is good (He is) and sees much further than we do (He does) I can trust Him, even in the scary times.
I’m mindful of the gap between what I sing and what I truly know by experience. So I often whisper a prayer. “Lord, You promised to guide me through deep waters. You know my heart’s capacity. I want to be willing. Help me to mean these words. I trust You.”
As Greg often says, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God!”