Oceans: Where Feet May Fail (Embracing, Part 1)

While in Ethiopia this summer I was forced to desperately depend on the Lord moment by moment.  People would ask seemingly impossible questions that I didn’t have answers to, but the Holy Spirit always gave me words to say. People threw stones at us, we had team conflict, most of us got sick, the list goes on…but so does the Lord’s faithfulness. Soon enough, I found myself craving those situations because it was in those helpless moments that God’s power, might and glory shone through. Six weeks later I sat in the courtyard, drinking Ethiopian tea and listening to the goats one last time, talking with Jesus. I told Him I wanted to rely on Him, I wanted to desperately need Him and his strength each day when I got back home. I knew I wouldn’t have the same situations arise, life would be different, but I wanted to wake up each day desperately needing the Holy Spirit. 

I didn’t know then what I asked for…
The first two lines in the song “Oceans” by Hillsong say,

You call me out upon the water,
the great unknown where feet may fail
And since returning from Ethiopia, God has done just that: He has called me into the deep where I cannot stand by myself. Today it has been 213 days since I said told Jesus I desperately wanted to rely on Him even back in America, in day to day life, and I am here to tell you that God is faithful. Every single one of those 213 days I have woken up desperately needing the Holy Spirit.

In a matter of weeks after I got back, the guy I had been dating for a year and a half broke up with me. It was unexpected. And it sucked. A lot. Him aside, I had gotten to know his family really closely and was actively involved in and serving with his church. Although I fought it, those relationships then had to change. While they weren’t severed all together, it still felt like the break up was with him, his family, the church and the youth group. What I couldn’t understand was why? Why did everything play out like it did? 
Then, in the midst of that hurt Jesus wanted me to start an ethically made clothing business. Except I knew very little about clothing, or business, or the thousand other things that came along with it. He then proceeded to break my heart for the 4 million people in Bangladesh alone that are employed in the horrific garment industry. 
School started in August and I had seven classes and more homework than I knew what to do with, the newly started business, a service project and leadership responsibilities on campus. I literally had twice as much to do as there were hours in the day. 

In the last month I have journeyed with one of my friends as she’s battled addiction, depression, medical issues and many other things. It is one of the most exhausting, heart wrenching experiences yet. The first night of school I didn’t sleep, instead I was at the hospital with her. Several dozen times we’ve stayed up until 3:00 or 4:00am trying to remind her of God’s love and truth. I’ve gotten multiple text messages from her saying that she was done with life. My heart broke again and again. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. 

The song continues,

And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep

In each and every situation above, God has proven unfailingly faithful. 
In regards to the failed relationship –
Before we had even started dating I desperately sought the Lord for a month. I almost didn’t date the dude out of fear of the fact that it might not work out; I told God I didn’t want to date him if it didn’t end in us getting married – I didn’t want the unnecessary hurt and I didn’t want him to experience it either. But time and time again I heard Jesus asking me to trust Him. 

And trusting Jesus means taking a step in the direction He is leading when you don’t know the outcome.

So we started dating and eventually began the relationship, and before each date, going to bed each night and on the way to go see him, I constantly asked God to continue to open doors and bless the relationship if it would glorify Him and further His Kingdom; and if it wouldn’t, I asked Him to close the doors, make it painfully obvious to both of us and let us down easily. So when out of no where we broke up I was frustrated with Jesus. Why had he made it so obvious to me that we were to have the relationship if all it did was end with a broken heart? I struggled through those feelings and many others for awhile. I felt like I lost some of my best friends and my church all at once. How could a good God so clearly lead me into this? What I came to learn is that the Lord purposefully led me into that situation to show me his faithfulness. In the same way that He led the Israelites into the desert to humble them, show them his faithfulness and provision and cause them to rely on Him alone, the Lord led me into that challenging time to humble me, teach me more about His unfailing faithfulness and, just like I had asked that last day in Ethiopia, make me wholly dependent on Him. Each day He gave me peace that surpassed my understanding. My heart was very broken, but day by day the Lord healed it. In the midst of the sadness He enabled me to still remain very joyful. I was able to find my worth, meaning and purpose in Jesus. None of that crumbled when the relationship did. He taught me about love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, empathy and compassion. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t handle the situation perfectly and there are lots of people that can tell you that. But time and time again Jesus provided joy when I was sad, peace when I was anxious, love when I was angry, healing when I was hurt, grace when I was merciless and empathy when I didn’t understand.
With respect to the business –
I have navigated the corporate world with a burdened heart. But literally each day God has provided – he’s provided material things, knowledge and strength.  It is ridiculous, really. He hears all the prayers I pray and all the ones I don’t, He knows everything I need for Wonderfully Made and all things I need but don’t know I need. People actually bought the clothing and believed in the vision. To date we have made more money than we’ve spent. When I would need to buy something for administrative purposes at the store it would always be on sale, I could go on and on about the small and very large, ridiculous ways He has provided, but it would take hours, so for the sake of time I’ll continue…
When it came to school –
Each day and each week I got everything done I needed to. Maybe there were days that God made the sun stand still like He did for Joshua, or maybe He made me extremely productive and gave me a lot of focus, I don’t know. He definitely gave me a lot of strength. I can think of numerous occasions where I would be overwhelmed, drowning in homework, behind in nearly everything else and beyond exhausted, and it was always those days that I would get an email from a professor and class would be cancelled – giving me extra time to sleep or get work done. Repeatedly I would have four or five tests, a couple papers, around 500 pages worth of reading and a project or two all due in a matter of a few days. Some weeks God would give me extra strength, or make my few hours of sleep way more restful than they naturally should be. Other times, He would cause my professors to reschedule a test, or project, or cancel things all together. I cannot say it enough, God was so faithful. 
And with my friend…
God gave me two other people to join hands and fight this battle with. Two people that I could talk with, cry with and pray with. Two people that felt what I felt, knew what I knew and were broken like I was. Ultimately, God showed me that we couldn’t do it on our own, it wasn’t up to us to save her or fix her. Yes, we were called to be Christ’s hands and feet, called to show love, truth and forgiveness. We were called to be like her family and to continually point her back to Jesus. But most importantly, we were called to trust God. That meant laying her down at His feet. It meant many a nights leaving her life, well-being and safety in the Lord’s hands. And time and time again He has proved faithful. 
Repeatedly God called me out into the deep and I always found Him there. Because of that, 
My faith will stand.
And I will call upon His name,
and keep my eyes above the waves
Imagine for a moment what it is like swimming half a mile off shore in the ocean. If you try to look down at your feet to see which direction you’re headed the waves will catch you off guard and crash over you. If you look straight out to see what’s on the horizon you’ll be exhausted just thinking about how far you have to go to get to the shore. But if you tilt your head back a bit towards the sky you’ll realize how small the waves are, how nominal the distance to shore is in comparison to the vastness of the Heavens. I’ve discovered that if I am constantly watching the direction I am headed in, if I’m constantly focused on me, on my feet, then not only am I caught off guard by difficult situations, I very quickly feel like I’m drowning in exhaustion, sadness, grief, anger, or bitterness. If I am focused on the end result, be it a college degree, successful business, marriage etc, I quickly get extremely overwhelmed. However, if I’m looking up, focusing on the Lord, then my circumstances can neither catch me off guard nor intimidate me with their size. So,
When oceans rise my soul will rest in His embrace
for I am His, and He is mine
This past weekend I attended Preview Weekend with Cru – the campus ministry I am actively involved in at my school. The weekend was for upperclassman who were leaders on their campus and interested in exploring the option of working with Cru upon graduation. This whole last semester I thought I would join staff part time, make enough money to support myself, and work on Wonderfully Made the other half of my time. While Cru was not something I felt especially called to, I thought it perfect – I could make enough money to pay gas, groceries and rent, it was better than sitting in an office, I would get to hang out with college kids and tell them about Jesus, and it left me time to devote to what I was really passionate about – unreached people and unethical clothing.

But God never told me he wanted me with Cru. He hadn’t told me no; He seemed rather indifferent. So I entered preview weekend begging him to slam some doors shut in my face and provide more clarity on what I was to do with my life in four months. That He did. 

The speaker talked about God giving different people different passions for a reason. As a variety of people stood up and talked about how desperately they wanted to work with college students, I realized that wasn’t one of my passions. Sure, I love and care for my friends and fellow students and desire for them all to spend eternity with me praising our Savior, but that’s because they are the people I’m around or even in the general sense that I want everyone to know the Lord. I didn’t have a special place in my heart for college students in particular. I do have a burden for unreached people groups – groups that have never heard the Gospel, don’t have the Gospel in their language, and/or don’t have enough believers to evangelize their own people. 

I swear the speaker said the word “unreached” at least one hundred times over the course of the weekend…or at least I heard it one hundred times. And each time that I thought of the 7,000 people groups still considered unreached my heart broke. As lame as it sounds, I definitely cried multiple times at the sheer weight of that. The speaker also spent time talking about how He believed it was very possible that our generation might be the generation to bring the Gospel to everyone.We might be the finishers. Matthew 24:14 tells us that once that happens, Jesus will return. No one knows the time or place the Lord will come back and the speaker made that clear, but his point was that with the Church all over the world sending out missionaries (and not just America as had previously been the case), the transportation we have today and the ability to get anywhere in a day or two (as opposed to weeks or months like a hundred years ago), the financial resources of the church (the North American Church alone could finance the rest of the Great Commission) and the technology we have today that allows bible translation to be much easier, the use of resources like the Jesus Film to be shown anywhere in the world on a smart phone or tablet and the way the internet can connect people from America with those in Nigeria, he and many others suggests that our generation might be the ones to finish the Great Commission. (If you’re interested in this idea more, check out his book The Finishers)

 As he talked about all this, the thought that permeated my mind was simple: “I want so desperately to be apart of that.” My heart is heavy for those who haven’t heard and I want to tell them. When I finally told Jesus that, the weight I had been feeling was lifted. It still lingers in a much lighter form, but I no longer felt like tears would escape at any given moment; I no longer felt crippled.

But, that means that I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do with myself in four short months. I have no idea where the Lord will call me or how He’ll use Wonderfully Made. All I know is that I am a twenty year old girl with very little money. I write all this less for you and more for myself, as a way to look back on the Lord’s faithfulness and remind myself of His constant provision. He can be trusted. (Of course, I hope it might be an encouragement to someone else too!) 
I know that 

His grace abounds in deepest waters, 
His sovereign hand will be my guide. 
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me,
He’s never failed and He won’t start now.
So I will call upon His name
and keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise my soul will rest in His embrace.
For I am His and He is mine.
I sit here on my bedroom floor, with American tea and music playing and my prayer is quite similar to the one I said 213 days ago in Ethiopia:
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.
But it’s scary. I know that the Lord will do just that – it will mean challenging, difficult and maybe terrifying situations. He will call me to do something that I literally cannot do on my own and honestly, the reality of that is absolutely frightening.  But in those moments, come what may, I will call upon His name and He will answer because He is faithful. 
I will undoubtedly try to do it on my own, I always do. I’ll mess up. I won’t handle the situation perfectly. But even when I am unfaithful, will that nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! (Romans 3:3).
Because He is faithful, I embrace the unknown.