Oceans (Not the Song)

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

I love the ocean.

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Photo–Angelia Johnston

My parents weren’t the traveling sort, so i never actually went to a beach until i was 19 when our church singles group took a bus to South Padre. It took us forever to get there, but i thought it was awesome. I was hooked. 

I love the sounds—waves crashing, seagulls squawking overhead—the whole experience is just really my ‘happy place.’ So why do i live in landlocked East Texas, you ask? You got me…i guess the opportunity to do more than visit the seaside never presented itself to us.

Angie and i used to take the kids to the beach every summer, at least to Galveston for a quick trip (even with the kitsch, seaweed & tar washed up on the shore, i still kinda dig it), but if i could work my vacation right, Mustang Island or South Padre. 

But it’s been a while since we went as a family. When the four of us flew to Phoenix on a whim three years ago, we ended up renting a car and driving as far west as we could, stuck our toes in the icy Pacific, then started heading back this direction. Angie and i went on a cruise last January, and would like to do another one if we can get dates to line up with our checking account. There’s a bunch of ocean out there, and i have only seen a tiny fraction of it.

God shows us a lot of things with the ocean—it’s the source of some of our favorite foods; mankind long ago learned to utilize it in transportation, and has laughingly tried to conquer it. But it shows us a lot more than that, in a way. There are depths that we have only recently been able to explore, the darkest recesses of inner earth where sunlight doesn’t come close to penetrating. Creatures that live their entire lives in that darkness that only a fraction of us will only ever see outside of photographs or documentaries.

That kind of depth frightens me. I’m not a good swimmer, and am not really comfortable being in deep water at all. I call it ‘a healthy fear of drowning.’ So i can’t imagine those explorers who ride in contraptions that far down below the surface, dependent on so much gadgetry—pumps, wenches and motors to tether them to life here above the water. And i love gadgetry—my smartwatch just told me my heart rate increased ‘cause i got nervous thinking about being underwater like that.

So i guess i really don’t love the ocean. I love the shore.

But here’s the deal, God doesn’t call us to lead safe lives, walking on the beach picking up sand dollars and shells. He calls us out of our comfort zones—into the waves, into the deep where we can’t see the shoreline or touch the bottom. He wants us to be in places where we are totally reliant on Him.

In Matthew 14, the disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, focusing instead on the waves and begins to sink.

Begins to sink…

I don’t know about you, but when i step off the edge of a swimming pool, i don’t ‘begin’ to do anything—it’s an immediate and sudden drop to the concrete below the water. The implication here is that Peter’s faith eroded slowly…he didn’t drop in the ocean like a rock, but that it took a bit of time. As he started sinking, fear probably set in, eroding his confidence more and things just went downhill (literally) from there until he cried out for the Lord to save him.

You’ve heard the story countless times, if you’ve been in church at all and ‘don’t take your eyes off Jesus’ is a great message.

But not the only one.

Did you ever think about Peter being the only disciple that was willing to get out of the boat?

The rest of them were in the boat, safe from the elements, protected, a group of friends surrounding them. It’s a fairly comfortable place to be. Kinda like it is on shore.

Is that you? Is God calling you out of your comfort zone to walk in the storm?

Lisa Singh puts it this way, “If we are not venturing out into the deep, it means we are in the shallow, and there is not much to explore in the shallow. There is no depth, and our view of life becomes superficial when we remain where we are in control. Nothing of significance can grow, survive, or be sustained in the shallow because the waves of life will always wash away and diminish that which had no roots.”

My title said it wasn’t about the song, but as i wrap up, maybe it is…i leave you with this.

You call me out upon the waters

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Photo–Shelby Caldwell

The great unknown where feet may fail

And there I find You in the mystery

In oceans deep, my faith will stand

 

And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters

Your sovereign hand will be my guide

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 

So I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine

 

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

 

I will call upon Your name

Keep my eyes above the waves

My soul will rest in Your embrace

I am Yours and You are mine

 

Songwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) © 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing. All rights reserved. http://www.ccli.com. CCLI License # 11051243