I have never been sailing. Never been on a cruise. I have a fear of drowning.
But there’s something about deep water that draws me. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight. What would I see? What would I hear? What would the night sky look like unfiltered?
I’m fascinated by the creatures that live in the ocean depths, but I’m a bit claustrophobic, so I can’t see myself scuba diving or boarding a submarine anytime soon. I am content with pictures and aquariums, with the experiences of those who brave the deep to explore what can’t be seen.
So it is with my spiritual life, I’m embarrassed to admit.
There is a longing inside of me to go deeper. To have the kind of inner spiritual life that is untouched by the world and its circumstances around me. Sometimes I trick myself into thinking I am deeper than I really am, but when faced with someone whose life is richer and fuller and more deeply rooted, I see the truth.
I am shallow. My toes are on the sand, where the water grazes them and retreats. I am knee-deep by accident when the tide rushes in. I hear the water beckon, but I stay put.
Here on the shore, I can feel the ground beneath me. Here on the shore, I can easily retreat to a place where the water can’t reach me. Here on the shore, I am within shouting distance of help. Here on the shore, I am in control of my actions.
Out there, in the water, it’s unpredictible. Wild. Dangerous. What about sharks and jellyfish and riptides? What about water in my mouth and muscle cramps from trying to stay afloat and struggled breaths? Out there, it’s work to stay afloat, to stay alive.
But there comes a time when sitting on the shore is no longer appealing. There comes a time when the deep is calling and it can’t be ignored.
Some went down to the sea in ships
and plied their trade in deep waters;
They beheld the works of the Lord
and his wonders in the deep.
Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,
which tossed high the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to the heavens and feel back to the depths;
their hearts melted because of their peril.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits’ end.
They they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper
and quieted the waves of the sea.
Then were they glad because of the calm,
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for. (Psalm 107: 23-30)
Once upon a time, a boat sailed into a harbor, battered and bruised, in desperate need of repairs. It needed to not sail for a time, while the experts helped put it back together.
But during the repair time, the boat got comfortable in the harbor. It was still near the sea, so it didn’t feel it had abandoned its calling all together, but it was tethered to the dock, surrounded by other boats, some of which were sailing, others that weren’t. The harbor was safe, for the most part. An occasional storm in the harbor was nothing compared to the storms on the open seas.
Once the repairs were made, the boat was ready to sail again, but fear of the previous damage kept it from its purpose. If it did go out on the water, it hugged the shore, never letting the land far from its sight, always returning quickly to the harbor.
Still, the sea called. And the boat remembered what it was like to sail on open waters. The adventures. The wonder. The awe. And yes, the storms, but those weren’t the only experiences. There were good times, too.
And the boat remembered that it was meant to be on the water, sailing, not tethered to a dock. The harbor would always be there when it needed to return, to rest. And the storms would be certain to come again, but having weathered them once, it could weather them again.
The time had come to return to the sea.
I don’t know what your vessel is made to do, or what storms have battered it, or what your deep waters are. But I know that knowing your purpose and living your purpose are two different things.
There’s an old adage I’ve heard, and it’s attributed to various people: “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.”
This is where life has me right now, at a crossroads: Clinging to the safety of a harbor, afraid to push off from the shore and let the water take me where it will, and knowing that it’s time to let go of what is safe and easy and set out for deep waters.
I am afraid of the storms that will come. But I am tired of sitting on the shore, letting fear win, wondering what’s out there.
I’m not an adventurous person, but the deep is calling me, and I cannot ignore it.
It’s time to shove off from the shore and set out for open water.