O The Deep

I have a knack for near-death experiences.

No, really. I do. Buy me coffee and I will wow you with random stories.

But I digress: one such experience happened when I was 21. I was young, impetuous, and it was a rough summer: I had gotten into the research program of my dreams and found out my success didn’t make me feel content. I drove from Oklahoma to Tennessee and had confronted my family and had been consequently kicked out my house. I then drove to South Carolina with my best friend to go to our favorite band’s concert and decided to confront my fear of swimming in the ocean.

The ocean, really? That’s the climax of that summer? Hey, it was meaningful to me. When I was 8 years old, I was scarred by a viewing of the classic movie Jaws. I had, in line with my family’s wont, adopted strict avoidance of my fears. I even went to RUF summer conferences for three years and had never ventured into the ocean for fear of a shark attack, which was hard to do without people noticing. I literally drove 16 hours from Oklahoma to the beach in Florida for THREE years and had refused to go into the ocean.

I know, I know, I am a dedicated worrier. But the summer between my junior and senior year when I was emotionally vulnerable, I decided that it was time to confront my metaphorical fears by confronting my literal fear of swimming in the ocean. And so I did. Of course, my sheer avoidance of oceans meant that I didn’t know anything about these things called riptides, which, as it turns out, are somewhat intense.

As my 21-year-old self was being tossed and turned upside down by the tide pulling me out to sea, my only thought was a line of one of my favorite hymns:

Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

First off, this thought to my 21-year-old self was not super encouraging as the tide pulled me out to sea: “thy glorious rest above” felt a little too close. But also, it was a moment of God speaking (not in literal words, but through my heart and riptidian circumstances): Becky, you are not in control of your life. I am. And, as much as you feel your fears and these waves overwhelming you, my love for you is more than that!

Funny enough, it was not what my heart wanted to hear. First off, I really did think I was going to die. Second, I am a control freak: control is my thing. I didn’t like feeling so overwhelmed by the waves, which was a literal manifestation of my metaphorical state! Even being overwhelmed by love—as much as I wanted it—seemed dangerous, making me too vulnerable.

I came up for air and was pushed back under.  I didn’t know which direction was toward the surface.

It was terrifying. The lyrics of O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus went through my head. Did you know that the whole song is basically an extended metaphor about the overwhelming ocean?

Well, technically, a river. Author Samuel Trevor Francis supposedly coined the verses as he stared at the river Thames as a teenager contemplating suicide.

Either way, the song is powerful: the overwhelming nature of, well, nature—as terrifying as it can seem—is less overwhelming, less powerful, less life-altering than the love God has for me.

And that clicked a little for me when I finally got out of that tide (the shore was very, very far away). As powerful as tides are, as powerful as storms and tornadoes are, God’s love is greater. For a brief moment as I contemplated dying in the ocean as I literally felt the waves rushing underneath me, all around me, I had a glimpse of understand that truth. That said, it’s been 7 years since then, and I still do not completely understand it.

So, when I settle in to watch David Payne (seriously, who watches Mike Morgan??), when I am not sure what is coming, I find myself reflecting on that moment and that hymn:

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Tornadoes are scary.  Riptides are scary. Life—with its everyday uncertainties—is scary.But God’s love is greater. And that speaks peace to my anxious heart

Doug Serven