Friday, June 23, 2017

Swimming in the Shallows

My devotion this morning has stirred my heart, empowered my soul.  I want to share parts of it in the hope that it stirs you and empowers you.  All of the words below are mine, except for the questions.  These come from the devotion. I've retold Mark 4: 38-40, but Jesus' words in verse 40 are directly quoted from The New Living Translation.  If you want the actual devotion, it's found on the YouVersion Bible App and is called Teach Me to Pray: Devotions from Time of Grace.  I've also linked you to the Time of Grace website.  So, with all that said, here I am:

I am struggling.  I am really struggling.  There are so many areas of my life that are not where I want them to be, where they should be, where they were, and I have been powerless to change them.  I have been powerless because my faith has faltered, my passion has plummeted, my hope has been hollow and my prayers have been paltry.  I desperately wanted to be back with Him, but I've been stuck.  God did not leave me, but I left Him.  I stopped holding His hand, and I wandered away.

I've been playing a game--saying I am HIS but living as if I'm not.  I don't want to live this way anymore.

It was not an immediate separation.  It has actually taken years for me to get to this point, to get this far, to get this deep.  I didn't plunge headfirst into sin; I just sort of slid into it, dipping my toes in first, sort of skirting around the edges, getting comfortable with the water before I submerged myself.  Truthfully, it is only by God's grace and mercy that I never sank to the bottom.  He never gave up on me.  He has been calling me back to Himself and has been holding out His hands of love and forgiveness even before I thought of taking a swim in sin.

I've been swimming in the shallow end, but I'm soaked with sin, nevertheless.

That water that looked so enticing from afar is actually murky and filled with debris and death.

I splashed; I floated; I enjoyed the water.  So, I stayed.

I heard Him calling me back.  I saw His hand stretched out to pull me free.  And often I would turn to look at Him, treading water where I was, slowly paddling back toward shore, still believing that I wasn't too far gone.  But I stayed in the water.

Eventually, I realized that I was getting closer to the deep end with every swish of my foot, every stroke of my hand.  It had become difficult to keep my head above the water.  Instead of enjoying my swim,  I was treading water.  I had been playing a long time.  I was tired.  I didn't like the slime and the crud sticking to me.  I turned to head for the ladder, but it was too far away.  I was stuck in the middle. I wanted to get out, to wash off the slime, but I couldn't.  The crud and debris weighed me down and I was going under. All of the work I was doing trying to get myself out wasn't getting me any closer to the edge, to safety.   I could not make it.  I would not make it.  I needed to be pulled from the water. I desperately needed my Life Preserver but I had left Him back before I ever reached the pool.  He seemed too far away.  There was no way I could reach Him.  I so desperately wanted to be safe by His side!

In Matthew Chapter 4, the disciples are in a tiny boat in the midst of a raging storm.  They are being tossed and turned by massive waves; water is crashing over the sides.  Regardless of how hard they row, the paddles cannot control the boat. They cannot conquer the storm that threatens to sink them.  They are frantic, filled with fear.  They are going down.

Jesus is in the front of the boat, sleeping through it all.  The storm doesn't bother him.  The disciples finally cry out to Him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
Jesus wakes and speaks to the turbulent wind and the violent waters, "Quiet!  Be still!"  The wind dies the surging water subsides.

I can see the disciples staring at Jesus with their mouths hanging open, water pouring from their hair, seaweed stuck to their faces and their clothes plastered to their bodies.

Jesus looks at them.  Maybe he shakes his head a bit.  Maybe he holds his hands out in front of him to emphasize His words, "Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?"

Jesus was asking a lot when he asked those two simple questions.  He wanted to know the depth of their commitment.

He wants to know the same thing from me.  So today, He asked me.

Who do you worship?

How big is your God?

Is He really omnipotent or just semi-omnipotent?

Is He the King of everything and Lord of all?  Or just a duke or earl of all you see?

Is He the Master of the universe or merely a middle man?

Has Satan really been dealt a fatal blow or is it just a flesh wound?

How big is your faith? 

I don't want to be where I am any longer.  I don't want to test the waters.  I don't want to sample the offerings of the world.  I don't want to pretend anymore.

I want to be back where I had been ages ago--walking with Jesus, holding His hand, leaning on His promises, serving the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

He has the answers.  He has the only promises that were true.  He has all power, all knowledge, all hope.  He has defeated Satan with a mighty mortal blow.  He has peace.  He has joy!  He has everything I want.

I stop floundering.  The waters still.  I look up and see my Life Preserver, right in front of me, easily within my grasp.  I reach out and grab hold.  He pulls me out.  He sets me on dry ground and washes away the trash covering me.  He wraps His arms around me, pulling me to His chest, and then He whispers the most beautiful words to my heart.  "I've missed you.  Precious woman, you are still Mine!  I'm so glad you are home!"