We are fast approaching a new year filled with new possibilities. The degree to which we will experience the new and all God has purposed for us depends on our willingness to leave the comfortable, the known, and do something we’ve never done before. It depends on our willingness to get out of the boat. We each have a boat, a safe place. The challenge for 2023—Get Out of the Boat. I reshare my first (and last) snorkeling experience to encourage you… this is the year!
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockefeller
“I don’t think I want to do this,” I announced with calm resolve.
“What you say, mon?” inquired the resort’s water sports expert and my newfound friend Desmond in his lilting, rhythmic Jamaican accent. I looked him squarely in the eyes and repeated – slowly, deliberately, “I don’t think I want to do this.” The small vessel had motored far from Montego Bay’s peaceful, white-sand beaches and had come to a halt. I looked at the water. “I can’t do this.”
“Yah, mon. You be fine. Dere’s no t’ing to worry ‘bout. I be in da water right wit’ you. I not gon’ let not’ing happen to you. All you gotta do is relax and breat’e.”
Desmond jumped into the water and bade me come. Sensing my apprehension, he said, “Take you time, mon. You all right. I right here. Come on, mon.”
And at his word, I jumped. I wrapped my arms snugly around him as my anchor and listened intently as he spoke, “Listen me. Just relax and breat’e. Take short breaths.” He demonstrated. And though fearful, I obeyed and found myself face down in the cool, blue-green Caribbean waters.
At first, I was too tense, too fearful to relax and enjoy. I soon forgot all of Desmond’s instructions. All I was aware of was my dis-ease and discomfort. The tube (which I later discovered was faulty) fell from my mouth, and before I knew it, my stomach and lungs were filling with saltwater. I rose to the surface, panic-stricken. “I can’t do it!”
“Yah, mon, you can do it. Relax.” And even though my initial experience had been frightening and unpleasant, I went back under. This time I felt Desmond’s hand gently on my back, reassuring me of his presence. I heard his voice just above the surface of the water softly encouraging me, “Relax. Yah, dat’s it.”
His voice, his touch allayed my fears, and soon I found myself breathing naturally through the tube. I remember what Desmond had told me the day he’d taken me sailing. “You don’t fight da water. You go wit’ it. Become one wit’ it, and it carries you.” And as I relaxed, the water became a force that upheld me as I yielded to it. I allowed myself to become one with the water. I rested in the arms of the waves, and they carried me.
I could still hear Desmond’s voice, though a bit muffled and distant. I still felt his hand. I stopped focusing on myself and relaxed even more. Suddenly a whole new world opened up before me. My eyes opened to the beauty of the sea. Miniature, colorful fish pirouetted by in glorious praise to their Creator—right before my eyes. I realized the deeper I dared to go, the richer, the greater the experience.
But then it happened. The faulty snorkeling gear failed. Anxiety gripped. Where was Desmond? I could no longer hear his voice nor feel his touch. I had lost the sense of his presence. Arms and legs flailed; I came up and reached out in desperation.
“What’s da matter?” he asked.
Relief swept over me as I realized he was still there—just as he had promised. Just because I couldn’t feel his presence hadn’t meant he’d left me to drown.
“Take me back to the boat!” I gasped.
“No, mon! You not see not’ing yet.” He handed me another snorkeling mask.
“TAKE ME BACK TO THE BOAT,” I snarled emphatically.
The boat was a safe place, a haven. No challenge. No threat. The boat was comfortable, predictable, and stable compared to the water. The water was dangerous, unfamiliar. I was not in control in the water. I had to put my confidence in things other than myself—Desmond, the water itself, the snorkeling gear. In the water, my inadequacies, weaknesses, and insecurities surfaced. My fears surfaced in the water. In the boat, I didn’t have to face them. I could sit in the boat in comfort and watch the other snorkelers. But the boat placed limitations on me. I could see the fish in their coral habitation through its glass bottom. I could listen as other snorkelers recounted their experience, but I was a mere spectator—not a participant. There were things I’d only know once I got out of the boat.
It was weeks later—Jamaica had become a fond memory, my deep tan had faded, and the sounds of Bob Marley and the Wailers were a distant echo in my mind—that God began to speak. “You trusted Desmond— a stranger—to keep you safe in the water. Now trust Me. Here I Am, calling you to new places in Me. Leave the old, the familiar, the safe. Am I not able to keep you safe? Am I not able to uphold you with My Word? Deborah, it’s time to get out of the boat. You can believe Me when I say, ‘I not gon’ let not’ing happen to you!’”
There is so much more to life in Christ than many believers experience. We all too often reach a place in Him that is comfortable. We receive a revelation and want to tabernacle there forever, and amen. We worship and sense His Presence and grow content. But God is so much greater than yesterday’s revelation. He is so much more than that warm and fuzzy feeling we get as we worship. He is a God of progressive revelation. He desires to take us to places in Him unfathomable to our finite minds, to show us more than we’ve ever imagined. He bids us come. Get out of the boat!
The river of God’s love and grace is ever-flowing, and it continues to grow deeper and wider, deeper and wider. Our Father desires that those waters flood every area of our lives. He desires that we experience what Ezekiel experienced—waters so deep that they overtake us. The Lord says, “Come in! Experience the depths of Me!” The degree to which we are willing to trust and obey and get out into the waters is the degree to which we will experience all God has promised us because of His covenant.
Maybe You Just Float
God’s desire is to take us to places in Him unfathomable to our finite minds. He bids us come. We must make a choice: Will we, in faith, move out of our comfort zone, jump out of the boat, come to know Him in deeper, grander, more intimate ways, be transformed to reflect His glory in even greater ways, and ultimately fulfill destiny? Or will we opt for the security of the known, the safety of the boat, becoming mere onlookers but never fully experiencing the richness of life in Him?
Get out of the boat! Yes, it may be frightening in the water, especially if you’re not a strong swimmer (or can’t swim at all). But the Lord does not require you to know how to swim or swim well. He doesn’t want you to rely on your own strength and abilities in the water. He wants you to simply learn to float. Floating requires that we relax in Him and let go of any weight that may cause us to sink. It requires giving up control. God wants us to trust Him enough to simply learn to float and become one with Him and allow Him to carry us on the waves of His love and His power! Then rest as He takes us deeper and deeper.
Get out of the boat! Yes, you may ingest some saltwater and need to come up for air. And you may think you failed because the first few attempts to go under to go deep may be less than favorable and far from pleasant. But seeming failure does not mean you’ve missed God. He honors your obedience. He uses this as an opportunity to release an even greater measure of His grace in your life.
Count on it: life out of the boat will sometimes be lonely; the deeper you dare to go, the fewer swimmers you will find. There will be times when it may seem God Himself has abandoned you. You may not always clearly hear His voice; you may not always feel His gentle touch. But not sensing His presence does not negate His promise never to forsake or leave us.
And most assuredly, you’ll come face to face with your weaknesses, insecurities, fears, and inadequacies. You’ll be forced to relinquish control and rely on Him completely. But that’s all He’s ever wanted us to do. His grace is sufficient. In our weakness, He is made strong. True life in Him is total dependence on Him.
Today, hear Him as He speaks: “Relax and breathe. Rest in Me. Become one with me, and I will uphold you in all things. I will carry you into the depths of My heart, My love, My Word. There is so much I desire to show you, so much more of Me and My Kingdom for you to experience. So much more of who you are to discover. Just be willing to get out of the boat. I promise—‘I not gon’ let not’ing happen to you!’”
Oh, the places you will go if you just get out of the boat.
For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
Hebrews 13:5b Amplified