One of my favorite things to do as a mom is to watch our three children at the beach. Through the years I’ve watched the kids go from being barely able to sit up in the sand, to crawling around eating sand, to the glorious year they can stand on their feet and put their toes in the water.
With each passing year, their physical development and their courage allow them to enter deeper and deeper into the ocean. Where once they stayed close to shore with only inches of water covering their legs, my son, Brady, and my daughter, Abby, now head to waters deeper than their bodies can stand in. Our youngest daughter, Mary, still likes to stay close to the shore where her feet solidly touch the ground.
I sometimes stand on the sandy shore fiercely watching my older two as they make stroke after stroke in the waters where their feet do not touch bottom. At times I want to call them back because of how deep they are willing to go. Sometimes, to be honest, I do just that because the fear of how deep they are overwhelms me.
Other times I take a deep breath and try to remember that they both know the water’s movements, and they have the skills to not only survive but thrive and enjoy the swim.
The Beach of Prayer
Our relationship with God in prayer reminds me of watching my children on the beach. Our prayer lives begin with us on the sandy shore with Jesus at our side, just thrilled to be with us. He is there whether or not we are aware that He longs to be in relationship with us. At some point, we perceive His presence. I can imagine Him standing with us on the beach, pointing into the ocean of endless possibilities of our relationship with God and asking us, “Are you ready to go into the waters? Do you want to go deeper?”
Even though Jesus is right there with us, pointing the way, it is also as if the ocean of spiritual possibility beckons us to enter, awakening in us that same desire to put out into the deep, as it does my kids when they swim. It reminds me of the line in the Psalms, “Deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7). This beckoning and searching we feel is the Holy Spirit inviting us and drawing us ever deeper into our relationship with God. This deep down desire is just one of many indications that God longs for us.
Stepping into the Ocean
When we first enter the waters of relationship with God, we are similar to my kids when they could barely sit up on the beach without help. The waters of faith may feel both exciting and scary. We need extra support in our beginning moments of faith.
I would guess that most of us have had teachers and those who modeled for us how to pray. Perhaps we have been immersed in a faith community that held us up in our relationship with God through the liturgical and communal life, wrapping and supporting us through the spoken memorized and communal prayers. As time progresses, we have become more familiar with living a life of faith. As Jesus invites us to go deeper, we are more comfortable to say yes as we lean more and more on the practices of our faith.
Two Things to Anchor Us
There are two important things for us to remember about this invitation from Jesus to enter the waters of faith.
First, He never leaves our side. We are always accompanied by Him.
Second, He is always inviting us to go deeper, eventually drawing us into water where we can no longer touch the bottom, and we are invited to even go under and swim in the quiet waters below the surface.
No matter where we are in our faith journey, there is more to learn and explore in our relationship with God.
Let’s Go to the Inner Chapel
The “inner chapel” is simply a place within each of us where God dwells and where we can meet God. Let’s begin with a short reflection.
Perhaps at this moment you are standing in ankle-deep or knee-deep water. Maybe you’ve taken steps further out, and you are up to your shoulders and head. Maybe you are even at the point that your feet do not touch the bottom anymore, and you are swimming in deeper water, trusting both God’s movement in your life and learning new practices of our faith that support your ever-growing relationship with God.
One thing is for certain. It’s amazing to know that no matter where we are on this “ocean adventure,” we are not alone. We are supported. We are accompanied. Jesus is with us. We are even being prayed for by the Holy Spirit to help us enter the water or swim deeper.
I invite you right now to pause and bring to mind the image of an ocean.
Where are you in your relationship with God?
Are you standing on the sandy shore with Jesus beside you, inviting you in? Are you in inch-deep water? Up to your ankles? Knees? Shoulders? In water so deep that you are not able to touch the ocean floor?
Notice where you are. At the same time, where do you feel the magnetic pull of the Holy Spirit inviting you to go? Where do you feel God inviting you to go? Where do you notice Jesus pointing you and showing you the way?
Notice, too, where you feel you want to go. Do you want to say yes to the invitation? Perhaps you want to turn and run back along the familiar path you’ve been on and return to the safety of shore, as both of our girls did at first when they entered the ocean. Wherever you are, it is okay. Wherever you are at this moment, there are also two things to remember. God is with you right where you are. And God is inviting you and wants you to go deeper.
I’m reminded of the Gospel story in which Jesus invites his disciples to toss nets by “putting out into the deep” (Luke 5:4). How are you experiencing God inviting you to “put out into the deep”? No matter where you are, know that there are prayer practices to support you—where you are and also where God is inviting you to go.
Embracing the Promises of God
These Scriptures can encourage you as you read them and pray with them.
• Psalm 42:1–7 // “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God for the living God”
• Luke 5:1–11 // Jesus invites Simon to put his nets out into the deep.
• Jeremiah 29:11–14 // “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.”
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Excerpt adapted from The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God by Becky Eldredge. © 2020 Becky Eldredge. Published by Loyola Press. Used with permission.