Drowning Lessons


“Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and waves have rolled over me.” Psalm 42:7 

Some people, when they’re afraid of deep water or preparing to spend time there, take swimming lessons. This makes sense. I like it when things make sense. But more often than not, life in the Kingdom of God doesn’t make sense. And, as uncomfortable as it tends to feel, the amazing and miraculous are usually found in the places that baffle our understanding. God’s ways are mysterious indeed, and our challenge and privilege is learning to trust Him when He draws us out into the deep waters we both know we can’t swim in.

I feel most comfortable about ankle-deep in the ocean. Sometimes I’ll go as far as knee-deep, but if the waves wet any more than that, it’s only because they’ve come tumbling in and splashing upward. In the presence of such an overwhelming force, I like to choose how much control I have. This makes me feel safe, and makes it possible for me to enjoy the beauty of the ocean.

So goes my reasoning, not only in regards to something as powerful as the ocean, but also – sadly – in regard to the Spirit of God. I, along with most people, am most comfortable when everything is predictable and makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong – I can appreciate and even love it when I am in a place where the Holy Spirit takes over. I intentionally try to put myself in places like this, because something wonderful always happens. But that “something wonderful” usually happens under the guidance of another person who has organized the event or gathering. And there is something comforting about knowing there is a timeframe to it all. There was a beginning, and there is an appointed end, which might get extended, but will eventually come. After any encounter with God, I have the ability to go home and close the door and remember it fondly.

I have lived this way for many years, and I’m not exactly proud of it, but I have to get honest if I want to get delivered. I’ve desired more of God (not because I don’t have Him, but because I haven’t explored the fullness of Him), but in measures I feel safe in receiving. I have preferred the soaking tub over the roaring ocean, when I accept invitations to be immersed.

I don’t know where these limitations came from, but I do know they are common to humanity. We like to put everything in a controlled section of our lives. We’ve been taught that anything we can’t control is an enemy. Add our traumas to that narrative, and we have such a neurotic need to control things that, when we can’t, we begin to unravel and turn the controls against our own selves. Eating disorders and addictions are a prime example of this. And I am not pointing an accusing finger or hurling judgments at anyone, only touching on an observed reality that has infected my own life.

Even thinking about surrendering complete control of any aspect of my life sends me into a slight panic. We talk about surrender in church circles a lot, like it’s a good thing. And it is – on the surface. All Christians know that surrender is the only way to grow in God. We have to lay down our lives – the ones that are messed up and full of all the stuff God never created us to know.

But we get really good at superficial surrenders. We timidly bring one thing at a time before God, and practically wrestle with Him before letting go of it (again, telling on myself). And, because He is faithful, we experience more of Him, and tend to walk away thankful that what we most feared would happen (we would die in the process of letting it go) didn’t.

Rarely do we see – especially in our day and age – a picture of real, deep, radical surrender. Souls that come running to God, so desperate for all of Him that they are willing to give – to lose – everything for the sake of knowing Him more. These are the ones – when they’re discovered – that are branded as wierdos and the crazy ones.

But these are the ones I feel drawn toward. These are the ones whose words burn deeply into my heart, igniting a fire that has always been there, but which I’ve learned to tend to just enough to keep it burning low and slow. These are the mothers and the fathers who have gone before us, and whose echos are now rising in my spirit, awakening in me a call to venture out into the deep waters of God and there surrender my fight against anything that tempts me to settle for a comfortable life I can manage pretty well on my own terms.

Men like A.W. Tozer, David Wilkerson, Smith Wigglesworth, John Piper, the Moravians.  Women like Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliot, and Joni Eareckson Tada. The ones who have given it all, gone all in, and discovered – in the complex perplexities of surrender – that God is indeed worthy of it all.

The current circumstances of my life look like a roaring ocean, staring me in the face with a bold invitation to dive in and give up the fight to stay afloat. I am wrestling with my fear, standing ankle-deep and longing for the security of the shore where I can maintain my stand. But there is a man I see on the horizon, holding out His hand, promising that in the deep, deep waters, He will be with me and bring me into the more I have been destined for. In my deep and painful circumstances, Jesus is inviting me to drown. Not in them, but in Him.

It feels like running toward a Giant, or like planning my own funeral. But there is a scary boldness in my soul that I know is not from me, urging me to let go and let God take me wherever He wills in that ocean of His presence.

I guess that’s the secret to drowning: I have to believe that – no matter what the ocean of circumstances looks or feels like, when I surrender to Him, it becomes an ocean of His presence. He has authority over the wind and the waves, so if He lets them take me under, any death I experience there will, by His own nature, bring a new kind of life that I cannot gain from these shores where I am still fighting to maintain some kind of order or control.

Dear Woman of Breakthrough, these are not common times. I hope you will not yield to the temptation of settling comfortably on the shores of religion when you have been created and called for so much more.

The generation that went before us paid a great price for the freedoms we know in Christ today – surrendering themselves to contend for a fire that wouldn’t burn out.  A revived company of men and women who were determined to pass on what they had received. There is a generation rising that will inherit a dark, cold, chaotic world, and they are going to need that fire that we sometimes only want to warm our hands with. We must go deeper! We must become willing to drown in the depths of His presence and be overcome by His Spirit.

In His gracious way, God has allowed the ocean before me to rage, and the circumstances of my life have become an invitation to be more desperate than ever. Are you facing something you cannot see your way through? If not now, I’m sure you will. God appoints times when all that is manageable unravels, so that we can gain a right perspective on the reason we are alive.

I am moving into the currents of the Spirit, preparing myself to be caught up in them and carried right into the center of God’s perfect will. I would have liked for things to look different, to be watching from a nice window, perhaps, as the waves overtake the shore. But God has chosen differently. Through adversity, He has called me out into what I most fear – a place where all control must be surrendered and all desires must give way to the only reality that matters: His mysterious plans.

Wherever you’re standing today – comfortably on the shore or swimming leisurely in the waters, consider the invitation to drown in the depths of God’s presence and gain far more than you possess right now. Ask Him for that more, and for the courage to pursue it in Him. Not just for your sake – not many would be foolish enough to lay down their lives for the sake of their own selves. Do it for the lives you’re called to touch, to be an example to, to pass an inheritance on to. Do it for the One Who laid His life down for you…the One Who is waiting out in the deep waters, extending His hand for you to join Him.

Maybe you’re wondering what drowning lessons look like, exactly? So am I! All I know is that I’ve agreed to show up, and lesson number one is this: Stop fighting. Be still and know that I am not surrendering to death, though it feels like it. My natural inclination is to pray it away, but God’s divine invitation is to go deeper and surrender.

As I do, I am actually surrendering to the God Who appoints the death of hopes and dreams and ambitions only so that He can work through those deaths a life that is inconceivable from the shores of certainty in my own plans.

As the waves wash over me and carry me out into His depths, I am finding comfort in the loss of my comforts, if that makes sense…because I am finding myself more and more at home only in Him. And as I do, I’m remembering what we so easily tend to forget: that we were made for this. We were born in the deep waters – the River of Life – and were always meant to live there, in over our heads!

{Photo images courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com}




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