Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
The boat was in 5 foot swells, rocking back and forth and my stomach wasn’t feeling it. Well actually my stomach was feeling it and I didn’t like what was about to happen. Ever been there? Out in the ocean, in a boat with the waves so rough, that you were going to feed the fish at any moment?
Earlier that day, we were safe on the sand enjoying the sun and a beautiful view off the coast of Cancun. Actually, we had been doing so much of that for several days that we felt like we needed some activity. Donita and I have been scuba diving for years and whenever we are on vacation we try to get a couple of dives in. So we headed 40 minutes off the coast, where our first dive was a shipwreck, a C – 58 Minesweeper used in WWII, known as the USS Harlequin. After that, a dive to a beautiful coral reef.
But at this moment, we were on the boat getting our tanks on, rocking back and forth and back and forth, desperately wanting to get beneath the surface. You know why? Because everything changes when you get beneath the surface.
When you’re scuba diving, once you release the air from your buoyancy compensator device (BCD), you immediately begin to descend and leave everything at the surface behind. It doesn’t matter if there were for 5 or 50 foot swells “up there” because “down here” you are in a different world.
“If you want to survive the waves you have to get beneath the surface.”
The reality is, we have to spend most of our time at the surface. That’s where we live. But that’s also where the waves are rough. It’s where the ship is rocking back and forth and back and forth. That’s where our stomachs get queasy and we feel like we’re going to lose our lunch.
You look at your marriage and it’s rocky and rough and you feel like it’s been torn apart. Your stomach is in a knot because your daughter or son is moving in a direction that is complete opposition of the values that you raised them with. You stare at your computer screen at work with a feeling of despair because you feel trapped in a job that is sucking the life out of you. You’re stuck in a conflict with a close friend – or they used to be close – and right now you just feel like throwing up.
That’s how it is at the surface. So, what do you do? Dive down. Dive down below the surface.
That’s what I try to do whenever I feel overwhelmed or disappointed or despairing over something that is outside of my control. When I dive down beneath the surface, I meet God in a world where for a little while everything at the surface disappears. I’m not delusional and I’m quite aware that everything will be there when I surface. But for the moments or hour that I am below, I feel the strength of the One who says to the wind and the waves, “Peace, be still.”
When we dive down, we get perspective, strength and a resolve that allows us to come to the surface and engage everything that we left behind. And quite frankly, like scuba diving, in the spiritual realm there is a calm and a beauty that you can only see when you get beneath the waves.
But too often we try to fight the waves, gut it out and do everything we can on our own, and so never get below. I often wonder if the waves are there to bring us to a place of surrender and acknowledgment that the ocean is far too big a place for us to live in on our own. The song writer of Scripture lived with this tension and recorded these words,
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam. Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:1-3, 10
“Be still” is another way of saying “Dive down.” It’s God’s invitation to let go of your worry, your control, your anxiety long enough to let him fill you with the assurance that he is with you, for you and leading you on.
Sometimes this is prayer where we use words and cry out to God. But other times – and this is what I have been practicing over the years – it is simply being still and letting things settle down inside of me because of my awareness that my Heavenly Father will enable me to endure whatever is at the surface.
I don’t know what kind of “surface struggles” you are dealing with but I do know that God is inviting you to dive down. For some of you, getting beneath the surface once a day is all you need. But others of you are dealing with waves that are so huge that once a day simply won’t cut it.
The Psalmist wrote “Seven times a day I praise you” (Psalm 119:164). This is not so much a call to liturgy as it is a call to life itself. It is finding a natural rhythm and managing the tension of living at the surface and diving down as often as necessary.
By the way, the ship wreck dive was amazing! We glided into the cracked hull, through the doorways and along it’s now crusty bow. The second dive was equally impressive. There were colors that seem to only exist on a coral reef. And the schools of fish seemed to welcome us as if we were one of their own. There is a freedom, a peaceful existence and otherworldliness that you experience down there. But you will only know it if you dive down.
See you beneath the surface!Click here for the photo credit on this post