On a 10-hour flight to Israel about a month ago, I had ample time on my hands, so I decided to watch a handful of movies that I've managed to miss over the last year or so. One of the movies I watched was A Star is Born, one of those I'm glad I watched it, but I honestly don’t think I’d watch it again kind of movies. It felt lonely and dark and, I think sadly, an honest picture of where so many are at. But that's not what this is about. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it..this isn’t a movie review after all - it’s more like a life review that God did for me - through a specific song from the movie and how He used it to whisper something in my ear.
Have you ever experienced a time when God used a song to hit deep in your spirit? The kind of moment that when the song plays, you stop all you're doing to just sit and listen? Then you hit repeat, again and again? Or on occasion, maybe the Lord repeats it over and over for you. If you happened to read my last story, you'll see it's been happening to me a lot lately. The Lord has spoken to me through a song before, but lately there's something different happening. The words dig a little deeper, sit a little longer and often come through an unexpected song at an unexpected time. The song in this particular story, Shallow, was no exception...
A group of us had been praying by the Mediterranean Sea on our last day in Israel. We were sitting on a grassy knoll off to the side of the pool, positioned on a 'hill" overlooking the sea. It really couldn’t have been a more perfect and beautiful setting to sit with others and rest in the Lord. At first, it was fairly empty and quiet, but as morning turned to day, people began to emerge and with them came all the expected noise and commotion. Families armed with towels, sunscreen, drinks and music arrived and soon the serene grassy knoll took on a different tone. Chatter and music overtook the sound of the gentle breeze and crashing waves. The distance between empty chairs dwindled and it became harder to focus. It quickly felt less like a place of refuge and a whole lot more... like life.
That is until the song Shallow rose above the noise, playing from a stranger's radio somewhere in the background. Suddenly everything but the words of the song faded away. It was the only thing I could hear. My first thought - Hey, I know this song from the movie on the plane. But then I realized there was something else about the song, outside of its familiarity...it struck a cord deep within me and as I listened carefully to each word, I knew the Lord was asking me to pay attention to what was happening in my spirit. Tell me somethin' girl, are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more? Is there somethin' else you're searchin' for? In all the good times I find myself longin' for change..I'm off the deep end, watch as I dive in, I'll never meet the ground. Crash through the surface, where they can't hurt us, we're far from the shallow now..."
As I took in the lyrics, listening to each and every word, the Lord gave me a vision of a person floating in a large body of water. The realization that I was the one floating took me back to earlier in the week when we traveled to the Dead Sea. It's one of the world's saltiest body's of water at 33.7% salinity and the high concentration allows people to float, effortlessly, on its surface. The sea offers an incredible experience to those who grace it's salty waters and I was no exception that day. Being in that body of water changed something, significantly, in me. It wasn't the sea that caused the change, rather, it was what the Lord did in my spirit as I floated in that ancient body of water.
Heading out into the Dead Sea was a journey in and of itself. Walking with my feet touching the ground until suddenly I no longer had the ability to stand on the sea floor. Instantly, my only option was to give-in and float. I tried to fight it at first - despite the fact that I had heard you shouldn't fight it. But you know how that goes, it has to be tested, right?! So I learned the hard way (confirming all that had been said from those who have gone before me), flipping face first into the water, the taste of salt stinging the inside of my mouth. I had no choice but to give in to the float...
Back on the grassy knoll, Shallow played on and I could taste the salt again as I watched the vision of myself floating in the water. When the vision was gone, I thought about my time floating in the Dead Sea. That's when the Lord brought it all together for me and I realized it’s a lot what life looks like. Or maybe life doesn’t look like it, but it seems like it should. Simply put, we want to stay in the shallow end of the water. That's where it feels safest after all. It's the place where our feet are firmly planted on the ground. It’s the place where we feel like we have all the control in the world...well, as much control as the world will allow. It’s not until we begin to walk out into the water that we are forced to give up that control. And when we finally do give it up, we become dependent on one thing and one thing only - the wind. We are at the mercy of the wind and whatever way it chooses to blow. It's at that point when things can get a little scary - because not knowing is a breeding ground for fear. So we try to avoid the deep. In my past I’ve strived to stay close to the shallow, avoiding the deep as best I could, totally clueless as to how much I was missing.
The shallow...it’s not fully trusting the Holy Spirit. It’s holding on tightly to our own need for control. It’s the voice of fear that says we can’t possibly hear the Lord...even as He is trying to lead us away from the shore. It's the voices that tell us it's safer to stay near the water's edge, the place where we control how and where our feet are planted. Closer to our castles built of sand, the comforts of the world and all the noise that fills it.
And so goes my walk, away from the shallow and into the deep...
Thinking about it now, I realize it’s been a slow walk away from the shallow. About 12 years actually, and it started the minute the Lord spoke to me in the middle of the night through a vision. I didn’t understand at the time that’s what was happening. I was just having fun building life's sand castles near the water's edge. But what I realize now is that God, in all His loving kindness, was gently beginning the process of putting away my toy shovel and plastic bucket and walking me away from the shore, out into the deep waters.
Deep water is hard to be in. Sometimes being in the deep is tiring. Sometimes it means letting go of something so the weight won't sink you. Sometimes it means being the only one in the water. Sometimes it’s hard and hurts your heart. I know, because I was recently there. Honestly, I'm still there. And at times, I’ve been a bit trepidatious about walking out to sea because, let's be honest, it's a pretty big commitment. It's a decision to leave your sand castles behind and walk into something you can't see the bottom of. But as the Lord has been walking me out, I'm realizing that the new things He's been doing in my life, like dreams and visions, don't really fit in my sand castles. They belong in the deep water where they can be guided by the winds of the Holy Spirit.
I move along in my walk to the deep and think I'm doing okay. Until suddenly I'm not. There have been numerous times when I’ve missed what the Lord was trying to whisper to me and it's caused me to trip on a rock or fall into unseen holes along the way. There have been times when I simply retreated back to the "safety" of the shore because the battles felt too big for me. Then God reminded me of something...in the end, it’s ultimately where the He is calling me to be, us to be...in the deep. And because He has called us, He'll hold our hand. He stays by our side. He mends our hurt heart, and He eases our aches and pains. He takes care of everything that comes from swimming away from the shallow. He was the One who called me away from the shallow and, in doing so, He is ultimately the One in control.
Ever been there? Taken that leap of faith and then panicked because the water seemed too deep? A little like when Peter stepped out of the boat, confident and walking on water until suddenly he took his eyes off the Lord and began floundering? "And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The journey out to the deep, I believe, begins when we finally realize we can hear from the Lord. When we recognize that He is, in fact, whispering to us. When we lock eyes with the One calling us to the deep and don't break the gaze. It's in those moments of hearing from the Lord that we begin to understand so much more about ourselves because suddenly we're hearing it directly from God Himself. It's in those deep waters, void of the noise that lives in the shallows, where we hear what He has to say about who we are and what we were designed to be. We begin to believe that we can be used for so much more. And sure, we can most certainly know that as we learn to listen to His voice, the moments will arise when our trust in what we're hearing from Him is tested. The times when we are tucked securely inside the boat and His voice begins calling to us to step out of the boat. Into the deep. To step out of the boat means trusting what we are hearing and seeing and it means trusting His voice and what He is calling us to. It means stepping out into those deep waters and believing He is in control of the winds and the sea.
Tell me girl, are you happy in this modern world, or do you need more? Tell me something boy, are you tired of trying to fill the void? Or do you need more? I’m not so sure the lyrics of the song realize that the void they’re looking for is actually a relationship with Jesus. And honestly I’m not so sure, as believers, we all realize that what we're really searching for is a deeper relationship with Him. Or maybe we do realize it, believers and non-believers alike, but we just don’t want it, because it means walking away from our castles and all we thought we knew on the shallow.
I’m nowhere close to the shallows anymore and I’m okay with that. Off the deep end, diving in so deep that I pray I'll never meet the ground. In fact, I'm asking the Lord to take me even deeper. Happiness in this modern world - the more? I believe it's spending time in the deep with the Lord. That void? Filled when we hear from the One who created us and start walking toward what He's called us to. It's time to stop playing games in the shallows of the shore. Those castles? They're built of sand and this shallow world is waiting on those willing to get ino the deep to make a difference.
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:2