The pastor at our church, Tim Whipple, has been doing a series on “The Plunge: Faith in Action.” It’s all about jumping in and going deeper with God.
God has used this series to really stir up a number of things in me. That’s what I love about my God the most – He loves me too much to just let me sit here with my baggage and my fears. I’m starting to realize that I’m still dealing with so many fears. So much of the baggage and junk left in my life has a lot to do with fear.
I remember when I first moved to Florida in 1992. Living so close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world meant that friends, family and co-workers would often invite me to the beach – which would inevitably lead to … swimming in the ocean. I’d begin to realize my anxiety as I start out into the water. As I got about knee deep the anxiety would become very noticeable and would increase as I continued into deeper water. By waist-deep, I’d be near panicked.
Friends and co-workers would call me to come deeper and all I could say was, “No, I’m good,” and smile and wave.
I was afraid. I was embarrassed.
You see, I spent most of my life in the mid-West, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Indiana. I didn’t make it to the beach much – and I was okay with that! When I did go, terrible things seemed to happen to me.
One of my first memories is when I was about four or five years old. I remember walking along in the shallows watching the water around my ankles come in and go out. I was fascinated by all the little crabs that buried themselves in the sand. With my back to the ocean, facing the crowded beach on a beautiful Saturday morning I was unaware of the huge wave that was coming at me from behind (well, huge for a five year old anyway). I was slammed down to the ground, my face buried in the sand. As the wave returned to sea, it took my bathing suit with it. I remember standing up in shock, covered with damp sand from head to toe, naked in front of the astonished crowd.
I was afraid. I was embarrassed.
A few years later at South Padre Island, I came out of the water to discover something all over my body that I didn’t even know existed – sea lice! My parents, sister and a even few strangers at the beach were all picking these things off of me by the hundreds – each time creating a red mark and a small welt.
And, there are other stories about me near water, including a near death experience or two. The bottom line is – I was very afraid of the ocean.
So, after living with the fear and embarrassment in Florida for a while, I remember one day getting tired of being afraid and embarrassed. And I decided to face my fears head on. I decided to take S.C.U.B.A diving lessons.
To make a long story short, I loved it! That feeling of floating in the sea – it felt like I was flying! And, the peaceful, tranquil sound of bubbles escaping to the surface as I breathed out of my regulator. It was better than anything I had experienced in my life!
And, the amazing sights! The coral reefs blew my mind. I’d never seen so much vivid color, coral and fish and bizarre creatures of every kind were everywhere – every square inch teaming with life. I ended up setting up a salt-water aquarium in my home so I could watch the action for hours. I pursued SCUBA with everything. I took classes to become certified diver, rescue diver, night diver, nitrox diver. I purchased my own equipment and went diving every chance I got.
Then, one day I realized that had I not decided to face my fears, I would have missed out on all this. I would have never known the beauty and thrill that existed beneath the surface of the ocean. I would have continued living with my fears and embarrassment – and, I would have survived – but not as well off, somehow. I would never have known to what extent my Creator went into for my enjoyment.
And, that’s how it is with some people and their relationship with God. I know people living in fear of “going deeper” with God. They dip their toes in the water, maybe even wade along the beach (just be careful of those waves that sneak up behind you!), but they never jump in all the way.
Where are you? Are you dipping your toes in? Are you swimming around, but afraid to go out “too deep”? Or would you rather just stay home and avoid the beach all together?
Tomorrow, I will discuss what it means to go “deeper with God.”