Into the Deep Waters

Image from Woman of Color

I want to start by saying something that I would like every one to notice carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. […] There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. […] They are directions for dealing with particular crossroads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. […] There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant.  –C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Today, I want to talk about a box and a boat and a journey toward the greatest romance of our lives. I want to talk about beaches and oceans and a place known as the deep waters.

When a person first becomes a Christian, their wish is to understand God. To do this, they begin constructing a box. This box is a doctrinal and theological framework built to explain their spiritual experience. As the box takes shape, it provides structure for the rest of the believer’s life as well: behavior, morality, thinking and relationships. It offers stability, comfort, and a reference point from which to view the world and God’s relationship to it.

Some people spend a lot of time building and reinforcing their boxes. Experiences with God or people that occur outside of the box are either written off as devilish distractions or twisted in such a way as to appear to fit within the box. For some people, God is the box, and to say otherwise is their version of blasphemy.

But God, by His very nature, is bigger than our boxes–and He will always test them. In fact, I believe, for those who will allow Him, God wants to break boxes. Because, at the end of the day, Christianity is not about maintaining a neat theological box. Christianity is about knowing and communing with God. The box is necessary for this at the outset, but at some point, it becomes obsolete.

That’s because, in our pursuit of Him, God wants us to trade in our boxes for a boat.

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis equates theology to a map and our experience of God to walking on the beach. Nothing compares to the breathtaking beauty of the beach, of course, but if we want to navigate the ocean, a map is required. I agree.

But as someone who is attempting to cross the ocean, I can say this: the further out you go in the boat, the sparser the map gets. After a while, you go into the bookstores and realize that all the mainstream Christian authors have nothing to say about where you are. When it comes to rejoicing in the Lord, the Sunday choir might as well be singing to the wall. It’s not that you aren’t joyful, it’s just that it’s…complicated. Trusting God isn’t bringing you that grand revelation for your future that you prayed for six months ago. People wonder why you don’t want to come to their great new Beth Moore study on Monday night. Instead, you go home and read Paul Tillich and pray you don’t get labeled a heretic.

And that’s when you realize God is pulling you out into the deep waters.

When the box begins to crumble.

When faith isn’t about seeing anymore. Or having all the right answers.

When worship is like standing in His physical, glorious presence.

When you’re not afraid to dance or struggle with Him.

When you know beyond a doubt that He is yours and you are His. Forever. No matter what.

Everyday is not a Friday in the deep waters. Sometimes it is dark. Sometimes it is turbulent. But it is also a place of profound love and supernatural joy. It is a place where one can experience God outside of the box, feel His embrace, learn something that they don’t teach you in Sunday school. When you feel your box being pulled, stretched, shaken, it’s a sign that God is calling you. Surrender the box and climb into the boat. You may begin the journey with tears. You may begin with doubt. You may begin with cursing. It doesn’t matter. Just row. He’s got you. 

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8 responses to “Into the Deep Waters

  1. One of the most beautiful and truthful articles I’ve read about our lifelong journey with God. You are a blessing, April. Thank you for your transparent heart, your thoughtful mind and your well traveled words.

  2. I hate to have to say this, but it is really true. So-called “Christian” bookstores have so much garbage on their shelves—most of it in my opinion—a hangout for the works of amateur, homespun theologians; bored housewives who want to write something spiritual-sounding, ordinary people who want to push some crackpot religious idea and support it with cherry-picked, out-of-context Bible verses; and people with a politically conservative ax to grind against most of the people who show up here to read April’s blog.

    Not speaking to April and her recent problems, but rather speaking to everyone here, Christian bookstores are very bad places for people with mental health issues, partcularly clinical depression. A depressed person can walk into a Christian bookstore, browse the books, and walkout ready to commit suicide. There is no help for mental health problems in those books—only trouble. Been there. Seen that.

    You are much better off reading higher quality, mainstream spiritual literature written by someone that has a thorough theological education at a place like the Schools of Divinity at Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard, etc. and similar foreign schools. This was brought home to me in spades when I once bought a Special Study Bible as a gift for my wife. After buying it—it always happens AFTER you buy it when it is too late and they have your money—I happened to open up the Preface and notice written text that I do not recall word-for-word right now, but it went something like the following:

    “You can have complete confidence in this great new study Bible because it has been commented upon, peer reviewed, and shepherded along by the greatest theological minds of the modern age: Chuck Swindoll, Josh MacDowell, Max Lucado, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard…”

    I mean—really!!! All of you would be much better off in April’s dingy floating along above the “deep waters” and taking an occasional dip in them.

  3. That about gets it for me—except I definitely remember that Hal Lindsey was one of those great theological minds on the list. I’ll retire to Bedlam now while y’all get on with your serious business here.

  4. So blessed are our life in alot differents the day into joy and be bless and living with the deeper the waters to glory for God in Jesus name and be blessing ,thanks and bless ,keijo sweden