Going Deeper

Photo by Oliver Sju00f6stru00f6m on Pexels.com

My family and I recently went out of town. JJ’s nephew graduated from high school several weeks ago, so we flew to a beautiful area in the northeast to celebrate with him and to visit with family in their neck of the woods.

The week away was a much-needed break. It was good to get away from the constant reminders of the tragedy that took place here in May, which had engulfed me in deep sorrow ever since that day. My family and I also welcomed the chance to escape the scorching, Texas heat! I packed a sweatshirt for our trip and actually wore it a few times!

While away, we reveled in the cooler weather as we enjoyed good conversations, nature, some sight-seeing, and my sister-in-law’s delicious home-cooked meals. The week was simply glorious!

With an extra day on our trip due to a flight cancelation, my family and I took advantage of taking a quick dip in the neighborhood pool our last day, where we were surrounded by mountains on one side and stately pine trees extending high into clear blue skies speckled by fluffy, white clouds. It was the perfect way to bring our trip to a close.

While there, I intently watched two mothers as they tried to reason with their young children to go deeper into the pool with them. It was the same problem I had been having with my own son as of late. They were at an age where they were somewhat afraid of the water, wanting to either cling to the ledge of the pool for dear life or sit staunchly on the swimming pool steps, refusing to further enter in. Seeing these children act this way as a spectator was somewhat comical. It’s as if they forgot who they were with—that they had their mothers by their sides who would not leave them. Or perhaps they hadn’t forgotten but didn’t fully comprehend who these women were. Maybe they failed to understand that their mothers would do anything to save them, even sacrificing their own lives.

Fortunately, one of the young children finally mustered up enough courage to acquiesce to his mother’s pleas, and soon he was splashing about, laughing with glee as he glided around on a pool noodle that his mom was securely holding onto. He was finally enjoying the fun that she had intended for him all along.

As I watched this happy moment, I wondered how often we, as believers, acted like those children in our own relationship with God. When God wanted to take us deeper into some aspect of our lives, did we instead insist on staying on the sidelines, staunchly sitting on our own swimming pool steps rather than following God’s leading into something more profound and purposeful? When presented with a situation that threatened to inundate us, did we forget who was by our side and that He would never leave us? Or did we fail to comprehend who God was and that He would do anything to save us? Because, in fact, Jesus already did. He sacrificed His very own life.

In all honesty, it’s hard for me to write these words, because I know how much I struggle to go deeper myself. My natural inclination is to want to give in to worry and fear, opting to “play it safe” on the sidelines rather than fully immersing myself in something more meaningful. But maybe that is the precise reason why I needed to write this—because I need to forever remember those kids at the pool and the insights gained that day. And I need to challenge myself in this respect and pray to God that I will be different—that I won’t miss out on the opportunities and invitations God gives me to go deeper with Him in any way.

Something I keep thinking about as I continue to mull over that moment at the pool is how much those children (and my own) could benefit from going deeper into the water with their moms. They might eventually learn how to swim if they entered a little further, where they had room to splash their arms about and kick their feet as their mothers upheld them and taught them some basic moves. These simple lessons, in turn, could eventually lead to more advanced lessons which would equip these little ones with the ability to swim over time.

The thing is, you can’t learn to swim if you are fiercely clinging to the ledge or stubbornly sitting on the side. You have to go deeper. Your trust in the one who is upholding you must be greater than your fears. And only there will your fears fade away as you revel in the beauty of the moment. Only there can you learn new things that will open the door to many new adventures to come.

Similarly, you can’t learn how to have deeper faith, character, and trust in God, nor any other skill with which God would equip you, if you only wade in the water when God is calling you to go deeper.  

The truth is, He wants to take each of us to places where our feet will no longer touch the bottom, where we cannot sit on the side. But we know that we can trust the One who is leading us because He will uphold us.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

He will help us and teach us what He wants us to know. And we can revel in the beauty of the moment, despite our fears, because we know that God is forever with us.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

Isaiah 43:2a

He is with us and will equip us for greater things—many new adventures to come.

For Such a Time as This

My son painted this a few months ago. The smudges on the top, left hand corner remind me of two birds escaping a city as it collapses. Given the world we are living in now in days, it seems appropriate.

Several years ago, I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Georgia for Christmas. It was a memorable time, from the steak dinner on Christmas day to the overnight stay at their family’s cabin and visiting several coffee shops throughout the week. Perhaps what stood out most from my time there, however, was the movies we watched in the evenings in the comfort of their own home. Each night, we watched a different movie based on the time era of the Nazi regime.

After several evenings of watching these movies, I noticed an underlying theme. It was fear.

It caused a neighbor to report suspicion of Jews hiding in a neighboring office building when the neighbor, in fact, had no reason for suspicion. It caused a mother to starve to death in a concentration camp when she had bread hoarded underneath her mattress for her daughters that she feared were not getting enough to eat. It caused a coup attempt to fail that would have undermined Hitler’s advances and potentially accomplished the defeat of the Nazis. And it brought about countless amounts of suffering and death for those that could have otherwise been saved during that time.

For the remainder of my visit, I ruminated over my thoughts regarding fear as portrayed in those movies. The truth is, fear is a feeling that I am far too familiar with. It has dictated my decisions in so many ways. But as I started to recognize the far-reaching effects that fear could have, I resolved in my heart to no longer allow fear to dictate my decisions. Fear would never be a good reason for any choice.

Fast-forward a little over six years later, and here we are, experiencing a new wave of fear as a nation and around the globe. The threat in our day of age has brought illness to hundreds of thousands, but perhaps an even greater problem is the effect it is causing on otherwise healthy people—the poison of fear, which is bringing about an even greater destruction.

I have seen and read many articles and posts throughout the last few weeks about the topic. Small businesses are failing, the economy is crashing, grocery stores can’t keep up with the demand of their customers, medical staff are in danger of not having the proper safety equipment due to higher demand of supplies by the general public, etc.

In the midst of a world gone mad as the coronavirus continues its spread, how are we to respond?

For those of us who are believers, we already know the answer. Do not be afraid.

It’s a common command given throughout the Scriptures in moments when the most normal human response would have been to fear. And yet God tells us not to be afraid. Why? Because He is with us.

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

When I was really little, I remember thinking my dad was one of the strongest and most capable people in the world. When circumstances contradicted my beliefs, it was hard for me to accept that. After all, he was my dad, and being strong and capable was an intrinsic part of being a dad in my young mind.

Though I now know that my dad has limitations and weaknesses, I believe that God would want us to have the beliefs I once had about my father when we think about who He is. He is powerful and sovereign and above all things. And His strength and capability are an intrinsic part of who He is. So when He commands us not to fear because He is with us, we need to keep reminding ourselves of who He is and to rest in the fact that He is by our side. Plain and simple.

For those of you who are struggling with fear, even in the midst of knowing who God is and that He is with you, please know that this post was not written to judge you. All I ask is that you would do this one thing—confess your fears to Jesus. And if you don’t know exactly why you are afraid, ask Him to show you. This virus may be the very thing He uses to heal you of fears you have been secretly holding onto—fears you may not have even known you had. He already knows what worries you are facing, and He would delight in helping you to feel a little freer. Take advantage of this opportunity to find further wholeness in Him.

On the flip side, for those of us who are not dealing with fear, let’s not give in to foolishness. The tendency, in our case, might be to want to “show off” how unafraid we are by overexposing ourselves to crowds and having the attitude of “I’ll do what I want.”

While we have the freedom to do that, for whose benefit would it be?

It would do us well to remember the following verse in times like these:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Let’s choose where we go and what we do with wisdom, knowing that we may come into contact with people that might not survive the coronavirus if they were to become infected because of us.

As we face the days and weeks ahead, I want to encourage us all to ask ourselves what the determining factor is for each decision we make. Is it fear, foolishness, or faith?

Let’s ask God for His wisdom and guidance as we seek to be people of faith. Moreover, let’s ask Him to give us the perspective He would want us to have during this time. We have an unprecedented opportunity in history to be a witness for Jesus like never before and to display the peace that He offers amidst moments like these.

He has allowed us to be alive in this moment of time for such a time as this. Let us rise to the occasion and be people that would sing His praise and bring Him glory, even in the midst of all this.