Waist Deep

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It’s that moment.

I’m standing waist high in the ocean..mere feet from shore, with my feet planted. For the longest moment I stand, face lifted upwards, the glow of the sun feeding my weary soul. I could stay here forever, basking in the peace of its rays, but just as I get comfortable, inhaling the ocean scent as I watch the gulls lite upon the shore, I hear the roar rising up behind me, the crash of the crest of the wave as it barrels toward me, and in that moment, I have a choice – dig my feet in the sand and brace for the impact or run.

Somehow I know if I move I will be overtaken, sucked under, swept up in the mighty wave never to find that spot on the ocean floor again. The sound of the crested wave crashes toward me, and I stand still, arms outstretched, legs locked, awaiting the connection of body of water and body of soul.

I’m unprepared for the fullness of the tumult, but my feet stand firm, refusing my knees the freedom to buckle. As the wave pushes me forward I find the strength to push back, against it’s current, against the pull to push me forward and back toward the shoreline I worked hard to get past. I close my eyes as the wave personified fist pummels my back, challenging my position, doing it’s best to defy my resolve.

If I’m honest, it hurts.

I think within my mind that is made of mere common sense that I could be safely on the shore riding this wave instead of fighting it, but the Voice that echoes peaceful “stand still” assures my mind that isn’t bound by fear that the best is yet to come.

All at once the wave breaks completely, stillness once again flows, and shaking the wet assault from my hair and face, I open my eyes. The sun still shines bright, the advance of the Oceans arms around me never blocked it’s rays, only my feeling of them, and the Voice that held me firm, beckons, “Deeper.” And I find my footing gained and take a step forward before the next strong current has me again longing to run back to shore. Because though the shore may be safe, life is found in the wrestle with the waves.

Psalm 93:3-4
“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”

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Love deeper

I spent a few days on a tall hill, a mountain in Arkansas, appropriately named Mt. Moriah. It’s the third year in a row that my dearest sisters in Christ and mentors and I have made the trek, and each time we have been blessed with life-changing lessons. This year was no different. Some of us met discipline, and some of us expected discipline but received grace.

It was in the midst of a rain storm on the top of the hill when grace met me. I was desperate. I was there to lay my life on the altar of sacrifice, to see His face and to walk away dead but alive. I sat in the middle of the circle, begging Him to rid me of myself, to show me my sins, and to scold me for my failures. Only He was silent. If I could put the moment into words, we had a staring contest. Both of us looking at this altar and neither of us moving, only waiting for the other to. Finally I made a spiritual rush, took my place, laid out on a table, arms spread wide, fully submitted, waiting for lightening. It didn’t come. If God would “tsk” at us, this was that moment, and in my heart I heard three words, “It is finished.”

I sat up and listened.

“I love you, Leslie. You don’t have to get it to receive it. You don’t have to understand it, but you have to accept it.” I imagined Him looking me in the eyes as the lesson continued, “You spend so much time apologizing for your failures, and pointing out your flaws to Me when you don’t really get that I don’t see you through those things. You wait for my wrath, the same bitter cup of wrath and judgment that my Son drank in for you. He drained that cup. It’s empty. My justice was satisfied.”

I swallowed these Truths, and listened for more.

I am love. And, I love. Everyone. It’s hard for you to fathom, but I have just as much love for you as I do the most despicable ofcreation. I love the murders, the pedaphiles, the adulterers, the thieves, and I long for them to know this!”

I considered that as I recalled the scripture verse in Ephesians: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

How wide: You can’t escape it. We try. We cling to a million different things in the hopes that they will meet our needs, but they don’t and as far as we run, we find ourselves surrounded by His love.

How long: There is no breaking point. God doesn’t say, “I love you to this point and then you are on your own.” Our strings break, our patience thins, but His love goes on and on and on.

How high: You can’t attain it. There is not a bit of good that you can do that earns His love. It’s like building a tower, no matter how high you go, no matter how many materials you possess, you aren’t going to reach the end of it.

How deep: I think this is where we lose sight of His character most. We forget that His love can reach beyond any pit we find ourselves in. We think He can’t possibly want anything to do with us when we are struggling, tempted, or publically condemned. Or, more likely, we think He won’t redeem the greatest sin, the deepest obsession, the darkest evil. We doubt His love for the least of these. We gloss over passages that mention that Jesus spent His time with the “worst of sinners.” In our heads, we imagine tax-collectors and prostitutes, but it’s also highly likely they were murders and thieves, pedaphiles and molesters. I imagine with one look into His eyes, they were undone. His love was penetrable. He didn’t have to speak their sin, they knew who and what they were. He didn’t have to point them out because they were already pariahs. And still, His love reached deeper than that.

It’s hard for us to imagine. We stand in pride and say “Look at me. I am worthy before God because… “ and we rattle off a list of accomplishments, and God says, “So? I mean really, thanks for that, but if you didn’t do it for love, I’d rather you not do it at all.”

Love. There is a reason why it’s the greatest commandment and the greatest gift. When we set our selves free to love, we are free to live – without condemnation, without guilt, and without shame. When we spend more time thinking about what we can do for others instead of what we’d like them to do for us, then we really get the kind of love He is talking about. When you can look with the same endearing smile at the man that smells of urine and has no teeth as you can at the sweetest most innocent child, then I think we might be feeling it. When you can speak as encouragingly to the single mom stripper as you can to the stay at home mom, then you might be expressing His love.

I challenge you. Love deeper. Because, whether we get it or not, love is what it is all about. Nothing else we do matters, if we aren’t first, His love.

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