The following is the introduction to my new book, “Deep Waters: God’s Invitation To Go Deeper.”
I’ve been dreaming about this moment for a long time. I’m standing on the shore of the Pacific, looking out upon the endless miles of expansive ocean. The sound of the waves brings a smile so large it rivals the stretch of the horizon. I take my first step into the frigid waters and every cell in my body is called to attention. I didn’t expect the water to be this cold, but the adventure that calls is worth the temporary feelings of discomfort.
The ocean floor is a gradual slope leading to a steep drop-off several hundred yards off shore. That’s where I’m headed, but the sting of the cold water only intensifies as I venture deeper. I glance back at the beach to see several people gathered. They’re not carrying boards; they just came to watch. They seem to be comfortable, smiling, carrying on in conversation as they watch thrill seekers chase waves.
As a young boy growing up in the landlocked state of Kansas, I could only dream of what it would be like to ride upon the power of the ocean, to surf. The only waves in Kansas are waves of golden brown wheat oscillating in the wind. Today, my opportunity has finally arrived.
Less than twelve months before, I had compiled a list of ten desires I wanted to see fulfilled this year. Near the top of my list was surfing. I prayed a simple prayer and asked God if He would provide the opportunity. I had all but forgotten about this prayer when my brother called a few months later to extend an invitation to join him on a surfing weekend near Monterey, California.
Excitement filled my soul as I realized my prayer was being answered. I booked my plane ticket, and followed that with a quick Internet search of prime surfing locations near Monterey. I wanted to see the waves for myself, so I typed in “surfing near Monterey”on YouTube. The first video that appeared was from a local news station, and the story was about a man who had just been attacked by a shark in the very waters we would be surfing.
That story is replaying in my mind as I sit on the board with my legs dangling into the murky ocean. Now in fairly deep water, I can’t see anything that may be swimming around me. My imagination is kind enough to start playing the theme song from Jaws. The chattering of my teeth reminds me I’m still cold. Perhaps the spectators gathered on the beach were the smart ones. I force my attention back on the waves and remind myself why I’ve come. After several minutes of letting smaller waves pass beneath my board, I decide to go deeper. I’m paddling through thick seaweed, but the allure of the larger waves beckon me to keep going.
Now I’m in the ideal spot. I turn my board around and look over my shoulder, waiting for the power of the ocean to sweep me up, and with a smile on my face and hair blowing in the wind, gloriously usher me to shore while the gallery of spectators cheer me on.
I see my wave and start paddling. I let out an excited holler as I feel the initial surge. I try to pop up on my board, but I quickly lose my balance and smack my face hard against the water. Not exactly what I had in mind. I can picture the gallery laughing. Perhaps that’s why they sit on the beach—they want to see others wipe out. It’s OK, though, because I’m in deep water. This is where adventure happens.
For years, I was a spectator on the beach. I watched others live with great faith and follow Christ into deeper spiritual waters, but I was comfortable in knee-deep water. This was just enough to make me feel like I was a Christian, but I still maintained complete control. Anytime God beckoned me to go deeper, the sting of discomfort and the fear of the unknown refocused my attention back to shore and the pleasant activities I enjoyed.
All this time on the beach was creating a sort of sunburn—I was having fun in the moment, but I didn’t realize I would experience the pain of the burn later. In other words, shallow water was dangerous for me. In my boredom, I became fascinated with all the wrong things. To create my own entertainment, I started living a lifestyle that wasn’t congruent with what God wanted. This provided momentary bliss as I forgot about the dull ache in my soul, but I couldn’t run forever.
God continued to call. Richard Foster captured my experience well by writing, “Perhaps somewhere in the subterranean chambers of your life you have heard the call to deeper, fuller living. You have become weary of frothy experiences and shallow teaching. Every now and then you have caught glimpses, hints of something more than you have known. Inwardly you long to launch out into the deep.”1
I finally hit my knees on a cold, January night and came face-to-face with the reality of my life. I surrendered to Jesus. I told Him that I can’t live this way anymore. The days of calling myself a Christ follower while rejecting the reach of His hand were over. I prayed a simple prayer: Take me deeper, Jesus.
God surely answered that prayer, and it’s been quite a journey. I had no idea what I was missing out on; the richness of life and the abundance of joy and peace that were available through a deeper relationship with God. This book was birthed out of a simple desire to help others discover the same. Whether you’re still not sure about the idea of faith, or if you’ve been walking with Christ for decades, the call is still the same: Come deeper.
My prayer is that you don’t read this book like you would a recipe book, looking to be told exactly what to do in order to create a deeper relationship with God. Your walk with Christ was never intended to be a cookie-cutter journey that looks exactly like someone else’s. God is far too mysterious for that kind of simplicity. However, there are some overarching ideas that are true about your journey as well as mine.
First, we’re invited to know Jesus intimately. We are not called to simply know about Him, but He wants us to know Him. This is actually possible. He wants us to learn to recognize what He’s doing in our lives on a daily basis, to learn to hear His voice, and to possess a radical obedience as we set our sights on following Him.
As we follow, He’ll surely lead us into the deep water of the Father’s heart, which is the focus of the second section of this book. Jesus always has been and always will be passionate about revealing the Heavenly Father. He wants you to experience the same love He experienced. This love originates in the heart of the Father, and Jesus wants to take you there. We’ll discover a matchless level of love that can’t be adequately translated into words—we’re just left to experience it. We’ll find a generosity and level of kindness that draw us even closer to God. We’ll discover more and more of the wonder and privilege of being called sons and daughters of this perfect Father.
As the great Scottish writer George MacDonald stated, “Because we are sons of God, we must become sons of God.” The third section of this book probes how Jesus leads us into the deep water of our own hearts. This journey is designed to bring a greater revelation of our identity. He’ll help us align our lives to reflect the truth of what we carry in our redeemed hearts. After all, we’ve been created to bear the image of a glorious God, and we glorify Him most when we live from the heart.
Finally, the fourth section of this book will explore how Jesus guides us into the deep and living waters of the Spirit. He wants us to drink from the only fountainhead that can truly satisfy—the Spirit of God. He wants to see us become people marked by His distinguishing presence and living lives of power and purpose. This is the heritage for the people daring enough to push off from shore and follow Him into the deep.
Won’t you come along?