21 Days Back to Shore
I was originally going to write about my upcoming February missions trip to Haiti and how the 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer is a welcome time of prayer and preparation for that trip. While that may be true, when I started to write, God suddenly reminded me of something else… something that might resonate with others as we emerge from the recent Christmas season.
Last summer, while spending time at the beach in Mission Bay, San Diego, one of our inflatable rafts drifted away from shore. I jumped in the water and swam after it, but it almost felt like the closer I got, my swim strokes just seemed to push the raft further away. I could never get closer than a few feet before it drifted further away from my fingertips. After what felt like only five minutes, I stopped and turned around, treading water while looking back at shore. I had actually swam a long distance from shore and could barely make out the outlined figures of my family and friends who were watching me with growing concern. It was obviously time to let go of the raft and swim back to shore, but I was tapped and barely had enough gas in the tank to keep treading water. I floated on my back to rest and recover strength to swim back, but I realized I was still using energy to stay balanced and afloat while the current kept pushing me further from shore. In the end, a couple of my friends swam out to me with boogie boards and pulled me in. The funny thing is that, when we got back to shore, a boat full of good Samaritans saw the raft and brought it back in for us.
While it’s embarrassing to share this story, I share it anyway because it’s a relevant analogy of how I sometimes feel when I get lost in the busyness of life. I swim hard in bursts of energy trying to reach my goal only to never quite reach it, feeling like I’m just pushing my goal further away with every stroke of my arm. And while the waves are subtle and calm, they’re almost imperceptibly pushing me further away from shore where my family is watching me from afar, wondering if I’m ever going to stop, turn around, and realize just how far I’ve drifted away from them. Then the fatigue sets in, and all I want to do is float on my back and rest, knowing that I’ve got more work to do. And just when I feel like I’m completely gassed and about to go under, God comes to my rescue. He grabs me and pulls me back to shore where my family greets me with a mix of relief and concern. And then suddenly, that thing I’ve been swimming after so hard miraculously appears on its own, as if all of my human struggles and efforts were in vain.
It sounds so cliché, but it’s true that it’s so easy to take our eyes off of Jesus when life gets busy… when we’re swimming after something. We get consumed in our busyness, and feel like we’re barely keeping head above water, as if we’re drowning in the details of our affairs, whether it’s work, a new home purchase, family issues, or even ministry. In those times, I not only feel fatigue, I feel unworthiness… like I’m failing as a servant, failing as a husband, failing as a father, and failing as a man.
These are relevant and recent feelings from this past Christmas season. And while I told everyone that I just needed to dig down and push through, in reality, I was gassed. I didn’t want to tread water anymore. And just when I was about to stop treading and start floating on my back in defeat, God turned my eyes back to shore… back to Jesus, who’s been watching me from shore, waiting for me to remember that everything I need has always been back on shore and not off in the seemingly but deceptively calm waters of the world. And now, Jesus is coming to rescue me.
The 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer is my rescue and my refuge. Jesus has pulled me back on shore, and I’m resting now. I’m not only regaining strength for the real work to come, I’m realigning my heart with His. Through the study of the book of Daniel, God is reminding me that He is in charge, not me, and certainly not other men.
He is who I answer to. He is the one who bestows wisdom. He is the one who I give credit and all glory to. But most importantly, through prayer, He has been reminding me that it’s not all about me. He’s calling me to intercede for others. And in that place of intercession, He wants me to know just how much His heart breaks for those who are swimming against the currents of the world, losing sight of Jesus, and losing the energy and the desire to swim on. He wants to turn their eyes back to shore, back to Jesus, who is waiting for them. He wants to rescue them.