(when we last saw Rae, she was descending into the depths of the ocean. Here's the rest of her story.)
Nothing could have prepared me for how amazing it was.
I was absolutely stunned by the sheer wonder of the underwater universe into which my still-trembling body descended. Slowly, slowly we lowered into a mysterious, alive, radiant place, where time runs slowly; where rushing is impossible; and where the beauty is so present it makes your chest hurt.
I had been worried that I would panic at the awkwardness of breathing underwater, and break the record for shortest dive by hyperventilating all my oxygen in ten minutes. But as we settled quietly on the ocean floor and began drifting through the underwater universe, I felt my breaths slow. Deep and long, in and out. They matched the exquisite peace of the strong, silent ocean.
Underwater, you can’t hurry. You aren’t there to accomplish a task or complete a job. There are no emails beeping or calls ringing. Other than the sound of your own breath bubbling upward, there is absolute, perfect silence. The only objective is to see. And see I did: an iridescent blue fish flashing by. An eel poking its head from a giant piece of twisted metal. A giant sea turtle heading for the open sea. A fragile, plum-colored shell resting in the sand.
For forty splendid minutes I swam forty feet deep, exploring a world of exquisite beauty and amazing complexity. My fears evaporated. I forgot I had even had them, so taken was I with the wonder of that place. When it was time to surface for air, I felt sad. The stillness and peace of the deep receded behind me and I burst upward into the dazzling sunlight of the afternoon. Instantly, my senses were bombarded by the sounds and smells of hundreds of people playing on the beautiful beach. It was as beautiful and tropical as when I’d left it forty minutes before, but now I had an awareness for another kind of beauty. I am so glad I got to experience it.
This was a small fear to conquer in comparison to others I still face. But it was a powerful illustration of the wonder that can be found when I leave my shores of comfort and deep dive into the unknown. Recently I read a story in Luke that affirms this lesson.
“When Jesus had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’”
This instruction was given to Peter after a long night of futile fishing. Yet, his response to Jesus was “At your word Lord, we will let down the nets.” We know how the story ends: a catch so big that help had to be summoned to distribute the load and keep the boats from sinking.
Is my faith that simple? “At your word, Jesus…I will head for deep waters.”
It may not be a sin to opt for the safety and familiar beauty of the shore, but, if I stay...I may just miss out on an exquisite journey that is only experienced by launching out and diving deep. There are three realities that have become special to me since my own deep-dive:
1. Shallow water doesn’t have surprises. We can see everything there is to see in one glance. Comfortable, right? Safe? Yes! But the shallows could never contain the wonders hidden far out of sight in the deep. Dare I risk missing the chance to see them?
2. Big fish live in deep water. Stay in the shallows if you want to catch minnows. Head for the open sea if you want a catch that will fill your vessel.
3. In shallow water, we have little need for miracles because our world is in reach, predictable, and safe. In the deep, God’s power has the opportunity to intersect with our faith, dazzling us with spectacular displays of provision.
When I was bobbing with my fifty pounds of scuba gear through waves bigger than what had flattened me in the Grand Cayman, everything inside shouted, “Turn back!” But I’ll never forget a moment, near the end of the dive, when I rolled over on my back and looked upward. A wall of turquoise water stretched between me and the surface, so clear and still that it seems I was surrounded only by sheaths of light. Sunshine, breaking through the surface of the water, hovered as far as I could see, all the way to where the land sloped off and disappeared into the open ocean. The sight was so dazzling that tears sprang to my eyes.
I have seen many things in my life - wonders of nature that took my breath away - but I have never, ever see the sun from the sandy floor of God’s aquarium, forty feet deep. My portrait of His majesty gained a whole new set of brushstrokes. I see Him with fresh wonder and respect. I came so close to missing out on that new glimpse of Him, and I’m so glad I didn’t.
Friend, what fear do you need to face today? Maybe it’s that big step in your business, or a conversation you’ve been putting off with a friend. Perhaps it’s the fear of failure or that you’re not enough. Wanna know something? If you stay in the shallows, you’ll never find out. Out in the deep, we are far from the safety of shore, our own capability, and the comfort of the familiar. But it’s in that place that our faith is made sight.
So come on. Let’s climb into the boat and push out into the deep. The Master is waiting there, to guide us into things that are deeper, higher, and more wonderful than anything we have yet known.