Big Storms & Deep Waters

The Tree House

Many years ago, I built an elaborate treehouse for my children. It was a large structure, complete with electricity and a railed front porch, mounted about twenty feet in the air, suspended between three large trees that grew in our back yard.

I knew it would be difficult to construct the foundation of the treehouse in place so instead, I built it on the ground and hoisted it to the waiting suspension structure with a heavy rope laced through a pulley mounted high in one of the trees. This was a difficult maneuver for one person, so I enlisted Sheridan, my eldest son, to help.

As I was pulling the large, heavy floor assembly from above, Sheridan was pushing it from beneath, working his way up an extension ladder with each upward thrust. As the enormous flooring structure got close to its destination, and we began working to wrestle it into place, I noted a look in the face of my son that I had never before seen. He was completely terrified.

Here was my young son, now an early teenager, yet he had never once told me that he is afraid of heights. Despite his fear, when asked to help with the task of hoisting the heavy platform into place, he said nothing of his anxiety, but simply agreed to help. He willingly put himself into deep water.

Fear of the Deep

Last week we looked at an incident wherein Jesus finished teaching from the seat of a boat on Lake Gennesaret, and followed that teaching with a seemingly absurd request for Simon to move the boat into deep waters and to let the nets down for a catch.1 Simon was used to the deep waters. He made his living on this lake and was intimately familiar with its behaviors and characteristics.

I do not believe it was Jesus’ intent to resolve an issue regarding food by delivering his directive to Simon. If a lack of food were the issue, Jesus could have commanded fish to jump out of the water and onto the bank. It is more likely that Jesus’ interests lie in the realm of stretching Simon beyond his comfort zone, out of the realm of the mundane and the expected to that of the unexpected, the astonishing, and perhaps for us, even the frightening. “Simon,” Jesus said, “put out into the deep waters.”

Some of you are in very deep waters right now. Some of you are trying to hold anchor in the midst of a whirlwind, a storm that threatens to sink your boat. Some of you are standing on the edge of a decision so frightening that it wells tears in your eyes. Something or someone is pushing you, prodding you, “Put out into the deep waters,” and you resist doing so because you are afraid. The outcome is uncertain, and the experience may involve dangerous, painful aftereffects.

We do not like deep water. It is over our heads. We cannot see or feel the bottom. When a friend is in trouble, we often say, “Oh, she is in some deep water now.” Deep water is outside the parameters of our human design. We swim, but not well – not like the fish swim. Things of the deep do not make sense to us. The winds blow. The tempest threatens. We cannot distinguish direction. We must fight our own instincts and often cannot rely on our experience to survive. Deep water forces us to walk by faith and not by sight.

Though life in the deep water frightens us, often the water is not as deep as we believe it to be. Life has taught us to fear and we carry that fear into new experiences. Maybe we grew up in a home where fear was healthy because fear kept us alive. The atmosphere at home was tactical rather than loving. Perhaps we have been in a marriage, or a relationship wherein fear was the manipulative weapon of choice. The neighborhood of our youth was unsafe, our school was violent, and people were cruel. Abuse, exploitation, aggression, and deception have cooperated throughout our lives to build the cynical, fearful man or woman we are today. So we sometimes see deep water where none exists, and we are afraid, all the while forgetting that our Lord and King walks atop the deepest of seas.

Experience has trained us to think small, to walk cautiously, to test each foothold as we crawl safely onward. We have been conditioned to expect calamity, viewing circumstances through a C-3PO2 lens that says, “It’s useless. We’re doomed.” We abandon the sanguinity and bold dreams of our youth, opting for a safe but mediocre existence.

Embracing the Adventure

A Christ-follower finds no satisfaction in the meager catches of the human shallows. Through complying with Jesus’ request, Simon and company experienced the catch of a lifetime. So overwhelming was the miraculous haul of fish, that Jesus felt compelled to say to Simon, “Don’t be afraid.”3 We stand at the edge of the deep water and Jesus bids us step in. In doing so, we experience results previously unimaginable, outcomes that frighten us, but which transcend everything our experience has taught us to expect.

I once read the story of a king who received a magnificent gift of two Peregrine Falcons, the most striking he had ever seen. One of the falcons thrilled the king with his majestic flights over the palace, but the other falcon remained perched on its branch, refusing to fly. This behavior continued for months, one falcon flying gloriously while the other remained on the branch.

The king summoned healers and enchanters from throughout the kingdom looking for help, but none could make the falcon fly. He made an open enquiry to the entire population of his kingdom asking if there was any man or woman who could explain why the falcon would not fly.

Shortly thereafter, the king was thrilled to awaken one morning and see both falcons soaring magnificently over his palace. When he asked to speak to whomever had convinced or enabled the falcon to fly, a humble farmer was brought before the king. The king asked, “How did you make the falcon fly?” With a bowed head, the farmer replied, “It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch upon which the bird was sitting.”4

The Christ-follower looks beyond the potential hazard of the deep water in order to embrace the majestic experience of soaring with Christ in the adventures of life. Rather than fear the deep water, we embrace the adventure, knowing that the challenges and trials we will encounter are the loom upon which God weaves the astonishing fabric of our lives. The storms of life invigorate us because we see in them opportunities for the glory and majesty of the Almighty to dominate that which overwhelms those who do not walk with our God.

Illogical Peace

In John’s gospel, Jesus makes an oft-quoted statement regarding peace:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27, ESV

In saying this, Jesus expresses a beautiful sentiment, but what makes the statement so startling is the circumstance in which he says it.

As you read that verse again, do so with the understanding that Jesus says this almost immediately before he is going to be bloodied and beaten beyond human recognition, and then fastened with spikes to a wooden cross to die one of the most agonizing deaths known to humankind.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27, ESV

Knowing what awaits him in the immediate future, it amazes me that Jesus can say such a thing.

Jesus offers his disciples εἰρήνην (eireinein) – peace, but I believe he had in mind something that goes far beyond simple peace. The closest Hebrew equivalent to εἰρήνην is שְׁלֹ֣ום – shalom. I believe Jesus has shalom in mind as he speaks to the disciples.

Shalom is that condition of completeness or wholeness, well-being, being filled to the fullness of God’s presence.5 It is this shalom fullness that allows a man or woman to face down the torments of the world, to be persecuted and interrogated, even to stare down your own assassin in a posture that says, “I do not look forward to all that being killed involves, but I am at peace, even in this circumstance.”

Jesus knows he is other-worldly, and that reality, combined with his Long-View Living perspective allowed him to state during his trial before Pilate:

My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. – John 18:36, ESV

As subjects in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus is our King; and just as our King is other-worldly, so we are not of this world. Like Jesus, we have the Long-View perspective, knowing that any storms or deep waters we experience here are temporary and inconsequential. We embrace Long-View Living.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. – 2 Corinthians 4:17, NIV-1983

There is a poem written by a gentleman named Bill Gaultiere, a poem he uses in his counseling practice to help his clients face their fears. It is a poem that is simple in its wording, but profound in its depth of meaning. He calls it the Shalom Prayer.

Peace of Christ … Not of this world
Kingdom of God … Not of this world
Fullness of God … Not of this world
Wholeness and health … Not of this world
Shalom … Not of this world

King David faced traumas and dangers throughout his life that are beyond what I will ever face. Yet this same David said, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”6

When I fully grasp, and truly believe, that the Creator of the universe cherishes me beyond what is within my ability to comprehend, then I can say with David that I fear no evil that comes my way, because I know God is with me. The call to tread the deep water does not concern me.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, NIV-1983

Our God is mighty. Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.

He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
– Psalm 33:7-8, NASB

Who establishes the mountains by His strength,
Being girded with might;
Who stills the roaring of the seas,
The roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples.
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs;
You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.
– Psalm 65:6-8, NASB

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
– Psalm 107:28-29, NASB

The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life –
of whom shall I be afraid?

– Psalm 27:1, NIV-1983

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

DamonJGray.org
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1. Luke 5:4
2. C-3PO is a humanoid droid from the movie series, Star Wars, programmed for etiquette and protocol, and notoriously pessimistic throughout each of the films in which he appears.
3. Luke 5:10
4. Kovilinkal, R. (2014) The Story of the Two Falcons. Retrieved 01/15/2015 from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140621115754-6092345-the-story-of-the-two-falcons
5. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 135). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
6. Psalm 23:4b, NASB

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