“Push Out into Deep Water”

In the first story in Luke 5, Jesus teaches the crowds in the shallow waters, but tells Peter, “Push out into deep water” for the real catch. Several of the other stories in this chapter relate to this idea of “deep water,” depth of commitment and involvement—the leper cleansed who can’t stop talking about Jesus, the four friends of the bed-ridden paraplegic tearing the roof off to put the guy down into the house to allow Jesus to heal him, the breadth of the spread laid out by Levi to celebrate Jesus, and even Jesus’ counsel about being totally committed to the Bridegroom, illustrated by images of matching fabrics for patching and putting new wine into new wineskins.

I wonder how deeply I’ve been committed in the past. I thought at the time I was totally committed to Jesus, but in light of the way I feel recently, I can’t help but wonder. I’m being overwhelmed with a sense of being close to him, drawing in, pushing out into deep waters, studying, learning, obeying, knowing his presence moment-by-moment in a way that hasn’t seemed as alive to me ever, at least in my memory.

And I feel he is calling us all to that depth of commitment. “Get in or get out,” he seems to be urging. “I don’t want you half-hearted!” Half-hearted is no-hearted, is deadness, is dividedness, is death waiting until the oxygen has gone out of the blood because there is none incoming. “I want your all, or none at all.” Serious words, yes, but a call to a life that is fully alive, brilliant, beautiful, strong, awake, vibrant, pulsating, energized. Oh, the beauty of what is offered so outweighs the negative! Why haven’t I seen that before? How I have been blinded and cheated by the enemy!

So I push out into deep waters. What does that look like? Deeper study. More intense focus on him moment-by-moment. More willingness to step out and do something different, challenging, risky. More willingness to obey that small quiet inner voice that I hear more and more as I listen, not really with my ears, but with the ears of my feelings.

It means getting past my objections: “But, Lord, we’ve worked ALL NIGHT…” “Yes,” he quietly lets me know.  “I know that. And it WAS work, and it WAS night—but this is different—and you’ll see…” And yes, like Peter, I’m blown away—and I almost want to ask him to leave—it’s that deep an impact! I can’t handle the feelings, I’ve stuffed them so long. The tears burn and sting.

But , then, I can’t NOT be with him. The pain of separation, looked at from inside this closeness and depth of relationship, is far more excruciating, far less tolerable. Desire overwhelms me like never before, for a relationship I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg of. And I want to ride that iceberg, let it melt in the flow of the ever-warming pacific waters I’m being drawn into. Deep, deep, Mindanao deep. Waters deeper than I can imagine, deep enough to swallow my Everests and never know they are in there. And then I’ll swim and dive and flow like I’ve never done before.

I’ve always had a fear of drowning, and even lung problems like bronchitis and pneumonia seem to me to be that same threat, of drowning in my own fluids, unable to breath. And I’ve never liked swimming, really can’t swim beyond the basic keeping my head above water. But I sense that this kind of swimming would be different, like the guy in Ted Dekker’s Circle series (I call them the “color” novels: Black, Red, White, Green), where he can swim underwater effortlessly, breathing the water as easily as air. This immersion is not drowning: Though there is a losing of the self that holds me back, there is a finding of the self that I was really meant to be.

It’s hard, perhaps impossible, to relate to unless you have had some similar experience. James and John and “everyone” were impressed with the “catch of the day” along with Peter, but none of them fell down and asked Jesus to draw back because it was too much. Glory is something we’re not accustomed to, particularly when it overwhelms with awe in our work-a-day lives, in our bedrooms while we’re sleeping, or in our cars while we’re driving. I remember hearing a story of John Wimber seeing through the windshield of his car the heavens dripping with honey, and another one where he told of the Lord telling him, “I’ve seen what the church you’ve built” in a way that had John beaming inside, and then the Lord said, “Now I’m going to show you what I can do!”

I am finding some of those depths through writing, and it has been decades in the coming. I am 59, and I feel as though I’m waking up like Rip Van Winkle. Perhaps it’s my own fault to some extent—maybe I’ve been as un-diligent as he was prior to his 20-year-long nap. But I would not have anyone wish to have gone through the un-awake-ness I’ve known in order to have what I’m experiencing now.

Yet I can’t help but wonder: How many of us are truly awake? Don’t most of us settle for “shallow-water teaching”? We are content to “just get by,” to settle for mediocrity, even to want to be “normal” or “average.” We aren’t really the unique “you” we were meant to be. There’s a Dr. Seuss quote on this which is pretty famous: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Excellent observation! Oh, if we could only manage to live it!

To compound the problem, not only do we not really want to be the “you” we were created to be, we don’t even want to live in the only moment we have—the present one. (Some have pointed out that it’s appropriate for it to be called the “present,” because it’s a gift.) We either rue the past, or long for the “good ol’ days”; yearn for the future, or fear it.

And even as I write this, I find myself losing that present-ness that was so wonder-full just moments ago! How quickly it evaporates. But I find it comforting that I am finding it more regularly, and so it doesn’t worry—I need to take my own advice and move in the moment.

Jesus did that so powerfully—I still remember the revelation that came to me about that as exampled in his first miracle, water-into-wine. One moment he states to his mother, “It’s not my time.” Minutes later, he has moved into a time-frame where it clearly IS his time—he does the miracle that somehow his mother already knew he could and (evidently) was supposed to do. It had to be “moment-specific obedience”: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.”—John 5:19 NIV—the only way to apply this verse to the earlier passage in John 2 is to postulate that somehow, in those few moments, Jesus “watched” his Father turn water into wine—and he moved into deep waters, never to come back into shallow ones.

I am ready to go there too, and not come back…


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