I am afraid of the ocean. I’m afraid of its unpredictability, the way the waves never come in the same way, the way it changes so quickly with the tide and the wind. I’m afraid of its depth and its expanse, the way I can’t see down to its floor or see its end beyond the horizon. The ocean has moods that change with its color, and out of fear, I like to keep a respectable distance.
Still, I take the kids to the beach because we all appreciate its beauty from the safety of the shore. We build mounds of sand that are supposed to be sand castles or birthday cakes, and every once in a while, we walk near the water and let the waves kiss our feet. If we’re bold enough, we risk them splashing our knees as we hold hands tightly.
Along with the ocean, I’ve been afraid of many things for most of my life. I remember my dad calling me chicken when I couldn’t handle the pressure of jumping into the pool with him and my sister. I was and still am afraid of roller coasters, pain, failure, and success. I’m afraid of the possibility of any of those things as well as looking like a fool trying not to be afraid.
I hold the naive optimism of thinking I could do more than I really can, while actually believing I can do it. I once had skydiving on my bucket list because I loved the idea of flying freely, but imagining myself at the edge of an open airplane door is enough to make me want to hug the ground and never leave it again. I love the idea of me being brave. In reality, I freeze in the face of fear or I puff myself up to seem bigger and stronger and braver than I really am when I’m just a fraction of the shadow I create.
I have the same naive optimism with my faith. I sing these words with my whole heart and a full voice, a declaration of my commitment to God:
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
But when He is moving and inviting me to step deeper into the water, where even my toes, stretching and reaching can’t find something to stand on, I feel panicked instead of fearless. I am one of little faith instead of one singing praises of trust. I give God a thousand excuses as to why I couldn’t or shouldn’t and how He clearly got the wrong idea of me. Or I try to map out all the options so I can predict what God might be thinking would be best for me and my family.
We left what we knew, loved, and planned for in life and ministry in Vegas and moved back to California two years ago with that naive optimism. We had hopes of new dreams and living out passions, but we’re still here, in almost the same spot we were that hot July day when we moved into my in-laws’ home.
There are moments when I’m desperate for answers, for clarity, for vision, and in my desperation my feet scramble to find the sandy floor of the ocean to feel safe and secure. Half of me wants to run back to the shore of certainty, but the other half of me knows the sandy shore is anything but certain. It shifts with the waves, and my heart knows it’s better to risk treading water than to go back to what is now just an illusion.
I sang and asked the Spirit to take me deeper than my feet had ever wandered, and He’s brought me to that place now. I know we are exactly where we need to be though our future is unclear and the present is hazy at best. We don’t have answers, we don’t see a vision, and there are days when safety and security sing like a siren, luring my heart with its comforting melody, and I get entranced.
But the voice of God whispers a deep note to my soul, the sound of it familiar and clear. He recounts the story He’s been writing in my life and reminds me that He can be trusted. He turns my face toward Himself and repeats the words He has said before: Keep going. Don’t be afraid. They are the same words I’ve heard this whole time, but somehow they mean something again. Somehow hearing them fills me with assurance, and I am no longer thrashing in the waves, my feet no longer frantic for sand to stand on. Instead, I am still. I am once more anchored by His presence with me, and all of me wants only Him because He is my Rock.
I took the kids to the beach again today, and the ocean wasn’t roaring as it usually does. The tide was out, the water was shallow, and the wind was just a breeze. The waves swayed back and forth on the shore, hushing my soul, and it was as though the ocean were singing His truth to me — Come in deeper and know freedom, for I am with you.