by Alida Oegema
September 18, 2013
5 min read
Recently, I was sitting in a familiar and frequently visited spot near the ocean. I was spending some time with the Lord, while overlooking the expanse of water and mountains that I adore. I was trying to process where my heart was at and to realign my frustrations and ache with His heart. But everything just felt off. I felt exhausted. He felt distant. And when words failed me, tears easily filled their gap.
If I’m honest, this has begun to feel pretty normal. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for me and my heart’s still reeling in the aftermath of much of what has happened. But the best and worst thing about grieving and growing and inviting God into the depths of heartache and disappointment and waiting is that He has this stunning tendency to show us more of His heart in the process. When we’re plagued with more questions than answers and everything we thought we had figured out crumbles, He emerges as the only worthy foundation. When we’re alone, He’s the God who meets us and sits with us as Emmanuel — God with us. And when we’re trying so desperately to be strong and “have it all together,” God whispers of His grace that is endless and abundant and absolutely breathtaking.
There’s a famous line from John Mark McMillan’s song, How He Loves, that says, “if his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” I’ve long loved the poetic illustration of those words and found much comfort in the truth they depict. And as I gazed out at a tiny sliver of the ocean’s vast expanse, I realized that I need to learn to sink. I need to stop treading water and to let myself drown.
Because sometimes I forget just how massive the ocean is. Living in metro Vancouver, I have continual access to the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, so sometimes I start to accept that as normal.
The reality however is that water covers 70 percent of the earth’s surface. The Pacific Ocean alone boasts an area of 155,557,000 square kilometres, with an average depth of 4,028 metres. That’s nearly five of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai stacked on top of each other, seven of Toronto’s CN Tower end to end, and twelve and a half of Paris’ Eiffel Tower. And that’s just the average depth. If we talk width, we’re looking at an area of more than 21 billion soccer fields or approximately 28 billion American football fields. And that’s just the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t have to be a scientist or oceanographer to know that’s a lot of water. There’s more there than I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around.
Which sounds a lot like grace.
Because the thing about grace is that we can’t reach the end of it. We can’t outrun it. And we certainly can’t live without it. Grace is the beginning, middle, and end of this incarnational narrative in which we see the God of Heaven step into the mess of humanity and show that there’s hope for the broken places, grace for the process, and a love that makes all of this worth it.
And the story of grace is the story of dead people being made alive by the sacrificial love of the only Saviour who could mend the huge gap of our failures and weakness. It’s the story of broken and contrite hearts captivated by His sufficiency and rejoicing in their own inadequacy. It’s a story of redemption and restoration won by His blood and power, not by our efforts or well-planned intentions.
When I gave my life to Jesus, he didn’t give me an invitation to come and have all my dreams and desires fulfilled. He gave me an invitation to come and die. Die to myself. Die to social and cultural norms that deviate from Him. Die to anything and everything that would rob my heart and mind from single-focused devotion to Him and His redemption unfolding in our midst.
But, in that invitation to come and die, He was really inviting me to come and live. He was inviting me into the far surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus. He was asking me to exchange what was broken and fleeting for what was glorious and eternal.
And yet, I so often choose to tread water. I dive in, so to-speak, only so far as is comfortable. Complete surrender? That sounds terrifying. Voluntarily choosing death? That’s a little too much. Our culture praises strength and criticizes weakness, so I choose to be tough and keep treading, fueled by my own ambition. I try to prove my worth and sufficiency and independence. I find and validate my worth in my efforts and exhaust myself in my type-A attempts to love Jesus and prove my faith in Him.
But the true invitation is one of surrender. His grace not only invites us to acknowledge our weakness, but to celebrate it — as a continual evidence of His power made real in broken human stories. In this season, I’ve often felt like I have nothing to give and so little of value to offer. I’ve felt so stripped of my own ideas and ambitions and dreams. But, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s actually a step towards the “less like me and more like Jesus” place we talk about and aspire towards but don’t understand the cost to truly get there.
The cost is everything. The price is death. But the reward is freedom in who He is and a correct understanding of who He’s called us to be. The reward is a deeper taste of His goodness and abundance that never runs dry and love that never fails.