I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years in the deep water, spiritually speaking. This is a place where any illusion of control melts away and a person finds herself riding waves, bobbing, desperately scanning for boats, floating, treading water, and sometimes sinking. I’m not a strong swimmer, either in actual water or in the spiritual depths, and I’ve had to depend on God for so much. He has come to me as a rescuer, though sometimes not as promptly as I might like, and as a result I’ve built a good amount of spiritual muscle out here. It’s not something I was aware of at the time, but it’s a big part of the purpose of deep water, and it’s something you can only really see and appreciate on the other side of a trial. These days, I do feel as if I’m making my way, carried really, to a kind of shore, and that comes as such a relief. I am so tired, but I’m also energized for next chapters and for the things I’m now ready for that I truly wasn’t before. Trusted voices in my life are reminding me to hold onto the things I’ve learned out in the deep water. When you can finally catch your breath and the sun comes peeking through and the ground under your feet is solid and dry, it is so easy to forget. I don’t want to do that.
Recently, I heard Beth Moore speak in her series, ‘Memorial in the Middle’ about the story in the book of Joshua about the Jewish people passing miraculously through the Jordan River on dry ground to safety. They made a memorial of twelve large stones on the other side, so the people would never forget what had been done for them. And Joshua made a second memorial in the middle of the Jordan, where the high priests had stood with the Ark of the Covenant while the people passed. This second memorial of twelve stones would be covered over with water and it would only be revealed when the water was low. Most people would never even know it was there, but the ones who placed the stones would certainly remember.
In the same week I heard Ms. Moore speak, my spiritual director urged me to remember the things I had learned during the time of my own trials. And the other day, I opened my devotionals to a reading from Deuteronomy in which Moses warns the people to remember the Lord as they take possession of the land He is giving them. It is so easy to forget when things are good. So easy to forget how you’ve been carried when you finally land.
The warnings from Moore, my spiritual director, and Moses himself were enough to push me to make my list. What have I learned, really, out here in the deep water? How have I grown? What do I see differently now? How has God used this time for good? Each of the following are stones that I’ve lifted and carried in this last season. Some were so heavy, there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it. By the grace of God, I’m still walking.
I know how easy it is to forget, and I know there are days when I may fall, but I place each of these here as a reminder to myself in the days when the rain comes or the water is low. Some carry an appearance of simplicity that is deceiving; until you pull on the rope of the truth of these statements, you cannot know whether you affirm them or not. And while I wish this clarity for you, at the same time I want to shield you from it. It is a hard, hard road. Today with quaking hands, I’m typing them all out and with a trembling spirit, I can truly say that today, I believe.
His ways are above my ways. Really.
He can answer prayers in ways I don’t expect and which are better than what I’ve proposed or planned. Romans 8:28
He knows better than me.
He never leaves me alone.
We sometimes learn best on a winding road.
I have made idols out of my ideas, my children, and my plans. That’s foolish and wrong. God has a plan for my kids and my life that is about their freedom and mine, and this plan is good. He really is with them wherever they go.
God opens and closes doors in His time. Nothing is ever “late”.
God sends the Holy Spirit into areas of our lives, and this movement can make a mess, overturning things, people, and ideas we dearly love. It can be destructive and hard but in the emptiness, something good can come from the cleaning out and putting back.
We plant dead things and from them come new life. This happens in the coldest, snowiest winters. So much happens under the surface that we can’t see, and just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
There is peace under the surface of the deep water. The surface is chaotic and churning, but diving deep is like snuggling close to a mother’s heart and hiding under blankets on the coldest of days. This is an okay and even good thing to do; it is not inaction. It is the active placing-of-cares at the feet and heart of God, who is the ultimate Mother and Father.
He can speak and I can hear but I can’t always interpret. Some of the things He promised me may come several years from now and in a form I didn’t expect; I still believe He promised them.
Time does not mean to God what it means to me.
He is God and I am not.
God can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20
There is a Heavenly crowd of people cheering for us through these hard seasons. They are helping, and we are connected to them, even if we can’t see them.
It seems like “holding on” would produce strength, but actually it’s the opposite. It’s in letting go that we find our strength. Letting go is harder.
He is trustworthy.
Sometimes in the deep water, we float. Sometimes we search for boats. Sometimes we walk on water, and sometimes we tread. We can get so tired out there and sometimes we sink. If we look up at Jesus instead of at our problems, they become His to solve. Suddenly we find our buoyancy and our rest. It’s counterintuitive and seems counterproductive, but it’s the upside-down way of the Gospel and of trust. Like the man who asked healing for his daughter even though she was far away, dying, and ultimately dead. And even though she had died, the Dad asked and believed, and Jesus was faithful in raising her up and giving her sustenance (Mark 5:21-43). He is a God of resurrection, of restoration, of renewal. He is a God of ‘re’ – it means again – and we can’t see how He will do it but He can and He will. It is so hard to see it in the deep water, sometimes we can only see it on the shore.
Yesterday, I went paddle-boarding with a dear friend, and I was nervous. I was afraid I would fall, and she was kind enough to lead us safely around the perimeter of a large lake. Before long, I had the hang of it, and I didn’t even fall, kneeling, sitting, and standing as we made our way around. After we had been out there a couple of hours and we were getting hot and tired, it became clear that the best way back was through the middle of the lake, and my friend asked if I was okay with this direct route. And I was. In this life, we can go remarkably far around the edges, but the deep water is the most efficient way to get where you need to go. Going through the middle is sometimes scary and it will most certainly bring you to your knees, but it’s the quickest and best way Home.