I am almost afraid to tell this story. It’s a story of promises fulfilled and prayers answered, but mostly it’s a story about the nature of life and the nature of God. Life is unpredictable; it bends and moves in twists and circles, yet, through it all, God is steadfast. Something I know now for sure: He never lets anything fall. Not the smallest thing.
Almost three years ago, I spent a summer day at a retreat house on the water. I was praying and writing at a small table outside when I felt my gaze lift to the horizon. There in the distance was a lighthouse, hardly visible through haze, and I felt the voice of God invite me to deeper water in my spiritual life. I sat there for several minutes just staring from my spot on the shore, to God in the lighthouse with a vast distance between us. I felt a quickening in my spirit. The promise of deep water felt like a gift, a moving closer to God who loves me. The invitation to deeper water felt like a reward for faithful years of prayer and relationship, and it sounded fun and full of possibility.
I couldn’t have known it at the time, but when it comes to spirituality, deep water is not fun. At least, not at first.
For me, deeper water meant loss and confusion. So much of what I had known suddenly fell out from under my feet. During that season, I lost confidence in myself, faith in a plan for my life, and a couple of very close friends. I lost big chunks of my belief system, whole swaths of peace, and countless hours of sleep. I found myself questioning everything, even the most foundational things, and I felt unmoored. In that season, things happened in the lives of people I love that I would never, ever have expected or wished. Still, God never left me. Though I was out there in the deep water, splashing and flailing, He was right there alongside me. He sent me faithful friends and family, wisdom in the right podcasts and books, a half marathon, the cheerful faces of my students, and an ever-increasing awareness of my utter dependence on Him. In the deep water, you have a choice: walk with God or drown.
About midway through this season, I started singing a song at church called ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong. It was a big hit with my church community, and one day, a friend left me a framed lyric print on my porch. She said she knew print this belonged in my house. She was right. The lyrics read:
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 would ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I was being called to even deeper waters of trust, and in those trying months, I would be called upon to let go of so much: preconceptions, relationships, dreams, plans, assumptions, biases, grudges, and much more, only now this invitation was in my home, literally in black and white. Calling me deeper than my feet would ever choose to wander. In this time of life, God was calling me to open my hands and let it all go so He could fill them again. This required a level of trust I’ve never known, and it took a long, long time. It’s a process that will likely never be fully completed this side of Heaven.
During this season, I’ve met with God in His word, in churches, chapels and grottos, in music, and in spiritual direction. I’ve met Him in tears and pain and literally laid out on the floor. I’ve met Him in sleepless nights and rosaries and journals. I’ve met Him planting tulip and amaryllis bulbs, desperate for spring. I’ve met Him on walks, runs, and on my yoga mat. I’ve seen Him in the kind, patient faces of the dearest people in my life. And all the while, I was asking, even begging for help in so many areas of my life that felt broken. I wanted healing, restoration, and peace. He knew what I most needed was Him. Jesus in the deep water.
Now that I know Jesus in this deeper way, I don’t ever want to go back. I crave Bible study now, and find I can’t sleep without reading even a little from His word. I feel His presence with me, and I can truly say it’s better than any answered prayer I could have contemplated.
But because God is so good and His love is so lavish, there have been answered prayers. A hatful of them in the last week alone, big and small, answered in such unexpected and abundant ways, in every area of our lives, that it’s making our jaws drop at how He loves us. Though life is not perfect, we are literally shaking our heads at His goodness. He has not left us alone.
This weekend, as we settled into the chapel with our daughter at Providence College for Family Day mass, we were contemplating making the final choice and deposit for her schooling. It was a huge decision. The president of the college, a gentle Dominican Father, would later encourage the kids to look for signs, big and small, to help them know where God wanted them. As I sat there waiting for mass, the musicians were practicing and it somehow didn’t surprise me in the least to hear the first violin strains from ‘Oceans’. My daughter looked over at me with tears in her eyes, taking as a sign the inclusion of this song that means so much to us as a family. Surely God wanted her at Providence College, and in fact it will be her college home, and such a good one at that. But, for me, in the recesses of my heart, I knew that song was meant for me, to help me know that I was where God wanted me, too. In the deep water, I’d found a new, sometimes scary, wonderful way to live my faith. Walking with Jesus by His providence, in the deep water, I am home.