I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen into deep water, but I have.
It was about ten years ago and I was on holiday with my husband’s family, taking a boat along the Caledonian Canal. We were fortunate with the weather and so had enjoyed Scotland’s scenery at its best, gliding along tranquil waters, taking in the splendour of Loch Ness, sailing right along to Fort William before turning around and coming back to Inverness.
We were on the last leg of our journey and approaching a lock, pulling in to the pontoon to wait for the appropriate time to be allowed through. I stood on the deck, rope in hand, ready to hop off the boat and on to the solid wood below. Only I misjudged the distance and instead landed in the water. In my shock, I looked up to what now seemed was our most enormous boat coming in towards me!
Would it crush me? Where was the engine? I need to get out of the way.
Thankfully there was a gap under the pontoon for me to duck under and my husband and father-in-law soon appeared to haul me from the water and on to dry land.
It’s one of those stories we now tell as a family and have a good laugh about, and on reflection I probably wasn’t in that much danger at all, but at the time it was very frightening and I was shaken up from the experience.
The view from in the water was very different than on the boat.
I was reflecting on this incident recently as I sang the worship song Oceans. I’ve always loved it and have sung it with great gusto, pledging to be led to places where my trust would be without borders and asking to go deeper than my feet could ever wander. As if that would all be accomplished without some cost.s
Most recently I have sung it with tears in my eyes.
We sang it last month at the Spring conference of the mission organisation with whom my husband and I are planning to go to Jamaica early next year. Our intention is to leave our jobs, home, friends and families and go for a minimum of two years to serve the church in Jamaica. Now, I appreciate that this doesn’t sound like much of a hardship! I know that there are much tougher assignments to be called to, but we’ve been here before and the view from in the water is a whole lot different than from on the boat.
We took a career break in 2009/10 and served God in Jamaica, and on our return life turned upside down. Unemployment, illness, strain on our marriage, all of which went on for a very long time. Our feet did fail, the oceans certainly were deep and rising and at times fear surrounded us like never before.
Keeping your eyes above the waves when the water is at your head is a very different experience. We did find God there in the mystery of it all, but not in the ways we expected. When what we wanted was bountiful provision and rescue, he instead gave manna, just enough of his grace to walk through each day. When we wanted pulled out of the water he instead gave us people who would come alongside us and keep us afloat when we became too tired to swim any longer. And in those moments when we weren’t sure we could even see him, he did not fail us. He was there.
Looking back over the past six years, God had done things for us, through us and in us, which have made us stronger and brought us to a place I’m not sure we could have reached had it not been for walking out into those deep waters.
In the last little while we’ve enjoyed some peace and tranquillity, sailing along and starting to enjoy the view once more. It all looks pretty good from here.
But we’re being called out upon the waters again and, while I’m excited about that and believe that God is in it, He is the one calling us, it does mean stepping into the unknown where our feet may fail. I’d be lying if I said there aren’t moments of trepidation.
Eric Liddell, the great athlete and missionary to China, said “You will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice.”
How much faith am I willing to put into practice? Enough to keep me cosy on the deck? Just enough to get my toes wet? Or am I really willing to go where my trust will be without borders?
I’ve known God while standing on the boat, and I’ve known Him neck deep in water.
I’d rather be in the water.