Walking in the Water

For the past year, I’ve really felt like I’ve been stuck in a pit. It’s been confusing and dark at times. The worst part about the pit is that you can kind of see that there is light and a better place above, but you’re stuck. The walls are high. Kind of like this wall that was behind a London hostel I stayed in last January.

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The Highbury Centre in London, England

If I cold just climb out of the pit on my own, believe me, I would. One of the truths in life, though, is that we humans tend to dig deep, deep pits. The weight of sin is so large that we don’t even realize that we are in a pit half the time, much less have the wherewithal to get out. And that’s why we need Jesus. He came down to earth and created a way out. He died on the cross so we don’t have to live in the pit anymore. He is the way, the truth, and the light. Jesus said, “ I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me (John 10;14).” He leads us to green pastures, to a life of purpose, to salvation.

Living in a pit is an interesting phenomenon, though. For some, it almost feels comfortable because it’s familiar. It actually takes a great deal of trust to get out of the pit. You have to trust that Jesus really knows His way and that wherever He is leading will be better than the cold, dark, familiar, and seemingly comfortable pit. That’s a big deal!

Plato’s Republic talks about a pit of sorts in the allegory of the cave. The people live in a cave, devoid of light and greenery. One person managed to get out of the cave and see the life above, but he’s faced with a dilemma of whether or not to go back into the cave because he knows that he will be killed once he does. The people in the cave are so “comfortable” they are willing to kill the very man that could lead them to true life! This points to the story of the gospel and the struggle of our human hearts.

We look for comfort in tangible things right in front of us, but miss out on the bigger picture. We often miss out on life outside of this dark cave and in the light because following someone, Jesus specifically, out of this pit requires trust in the things unseen. It requires hope in something better, a perspective beyond life in the pit.

That something better is described in Isaiah 62, the restoration of Zion.

“You will be a glorious crown in the Lord’s hand,
and a royal diadem in the palm of your God.
You will no longer be called Deserted,
And your land will not be called Desolate;
Instead, you will be called My Delight is in Her,”

Our God will not desert us on the journey. He has called me to such a time as this.

Out of the pit “we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5: 7),” as Paul writes.

The really beautiful thing is, when we trust in God, we believe the gospel, we have been transformed. Paul continues, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passes away, and look, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).” I am convinced that trust is the key to growing in relationship to God and renewing our hearts in Him. That is, to “draw near to Him, wait on Him, bind yourself to Him” for “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40: 28-31).”

I thought about this verse last summer when I was in Greece.

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Acropolis, ancient greek ruins in Athens, Greece

I sat under a tree in Athens and reflected on the legend of Icarus. The Greek myth is the story of an expert crafts man Deadalus who makes wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son, Icarus, to escape from Crete. Icarus’s father tells him to follow a path not too close to the sea or the sun but of course, in the elixir of flight, Icarus fly’s into the sun, the wax on his wings melt, and he crashes into the ocean. Here is the big lesson for me– I can’t make my own wings and expect to fly. Relying on my own inventions without God will make me crash into the ocean every time.

Trusting the Lord is a radical act of faith and the only way to walk is with him. Being a Christian is not a calculation or philosophical theory, it is an everyday lived experience of bold, life changing trust. I agree with John Steward Mills, “there are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized, until personal experience has brought it home.”

Trusting God is kind of like swimming in this river–exhilarating and difficult, and also the only path through the confusing forest.

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Smith College, Mill River

So yes, some things in life are confusing, but the character of God, that is crystal clear. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “but God has no history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one.” Indeed, when Moses asked God what to call him he replied, “I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14).” He is constant, sovereign, my rock and my good Father. I can take heart, for He has overcome the world.

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A Day Without Running Water

Before venturing halfway around the world, I’ve never gone without running water. On a day-to-day basis I just don’t think about water because I have the privilege to assume all the water I drink is clean and never lift a finger to collect water. In the United States, our water is not only easily accessible and clean- it also protects our teeth through water fluoridation. During the first couple days I spent in Uganda, my thoughts on water changed and considerably increased.

Waking up in Uganda, I’d stretch and wearily navigate an exit rout from underneath the mosquito net covering my bed. As I drudged over to my suitcase I grabbed my towel and headed off to take a shower. I knew that the water we used came from a well about 1.5 miles from where we were staying, so I don’t have good reason to explain my surprise of what taking a shower entailed. Opening the wooden gate-like door to the outdoor shower, I peered in to find two jugs of water (one hot and one cold) and a plastic bowl. The shower procedure, I soon learned, was to pour various amounts of the hot and could water into this bowl and dump the water on your self. I never appreciated modern technology that makes running water possible so much until my own hands had to take its place.

After I finished my shower, I set off to complete my next task of brushing my teeth. In addition to water being difficult to access, the water we were able to collect was not clean. I had the luxury of bottled water though, and so I brushed my teeth using that. Using bottled water made me aware of just how much water I can live off of, which surprised me even more than the shower procedure.

Over the course of a half hour that first morning in Uganda, I learned more about my daily consumption of water than all the statics that have been quoted to me. Water is important and clean water is even more important. In many ways, God is like water. He brings life to everything he touches, uplifting us with his grace and love. Sometimes we don’t notice how much the Lord is working in our lives, the ways He is changing our hearts and His beautiful creations because we are caught up in the daily grind. All too often I take the Lord for granted, unaware that it is He who “refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).