Deep Waters


“‘I am come into deep waters’ took on a new meaning this morning.  It started with perplexing matters concerning the future.  Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other:  ‘waters to swim in’ – not to float in.  Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion – all of you is involved in it – and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.”      20 December 1927

“We rest in Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

Deep waters.  A place, physically, where one can neither touch ground with feet nor grasp support with hands.  The only way to keep afloat is by the exercise of strength and the abandonment of body to the water that bears it.

And, so it is, spiritually speaking.  Deep waters.  The place, interiorly, where we are submerged.  No place to rest.  No anchor to grip.  Every last effort must be given to survive.  To stay afloat.

The “deep waters” to which Lilias refers concerned the future of the Algiers Mission Band.  The situation unfolds in the pages of her diary  It concerned the mission of the band:  were the stations (outposts along the coast and south into the interior) a means to an end (a base from which they would continue to itinerate to unreached territories) or ends in themselves (development and maintaining existing programs)?  At the heart of the concern, Lilias believed, were issues of faith:  the physical risk of penetrating deeper into territories beyond the reach of outposts; and the financial risk of funding their new ventures.

The stakes were high.  Clearly she believed that their mission was to “launch out into the deep, out of reach of any landing place, if the way should prove stormy.”  But the decision required unanimity of the workers – without the promise of  her continuing leadership.  She was already living on borrowed time, her heart outbeating the prognosis of medical experts.  Futhermore, lack of consensus on this critical issue could result in a breakdown not only of mission but unity of the band.  Deep waters.

Deep waters.  Yes.  But that is not all of the story.  In deep waters it is all or nothing:  sink or swim.  “Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion – all of you is involved in it – and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.” 

What was the “water” of which she wrote. . .  the water that “bears you up“?  Answer:  “We rest in Thee, in Thy Name we go.”  The exercise of faith – “most strenuous form of motion” – is in the Strong Name of God.  Deep waters. . .   Abandonment to God.

We, like Lilias, have our own “deep waters.”  It might, like her, involve some unknown future, some unforeseen development.  We might find ourselves thrashing in uncharted waters, seemingly without support or solution.  It might be more immediate:  financial. . .  marriage. . .  medical. . .  vocational. . .  relational. . .  emotional. . . .  Oh, the list could go on and on.  We have exhausted our resources; our energy is depleted.

This is the moment for abandonment.  The moment to let go and rest “upon the water that bears you up.”  “The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.”  (Oswald Chambers/May 5)

My husband recalls a childhood memory at the YMCA pool in Hong Kong.  A string of ropes with rings were extended the entire length of the swimming pool.  He would climb up the ladder of the diving board and reach out for the first ring then swing to the next, working his way, ring by ring, toward the opposite end of the pool.  The rush was heady; his swimming skills were insufficient should he lose his grip and fall to the depths below.  But he was unafraid.  His father was swimming the length of the pool, following beneath him, ready to rescue him should he fall.

Deep waters.  Whether suspended precariously above deep waters or submerged within:  little matter.  Our Heavenly Father bears up us as certainly as the earthly father who waited and watched below.  Rarely do we chose “abandonment.”  It goes against our nature.  Most often it occurs when, really, there are not other options.  All props are knocked out from under or around us.  One wonders what would happen if this spirit of “abandonment” to God became our MO?!

What is the water that bears me up?   “We rest in Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

The eternal God is your refuge,

and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27

Painting:  undated

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