That scary place. We all know it, we’ve all been there and we’d all like to keep it at bay, as far away as possible and because of this we create ways to keep ourselves safe. I don’t think we necessarily even make a conscious decision to do this, something inside us just instinctively starts taking charge and finding ways to protect ourselves. It’s a survival instinct and natural to every human and even every animal. Even plants have survival instincts! However, the thing is, we aren’t animals and we certainly aren’t plants! We are people, created by God to be in relationship with God and with God there is constant safety. Yet we are so instinctively human that we cannot help ourselves from allowing our brains and our bodies from taking over in moments of fear and panic and let them to do the planning. What we so often forget though is that we are made up of three different elements: body, soul and spirit and maybe we shouldn’t be letting our brains and bodies be doing the planning. But what are these three elements exactly? I’m pretty sure we all know what our physical bodies are made up of, but what about our souls and spirits? What are they?
I was lucky enough to spend some time at Ellel Ministries last year and a lot of the teaching I had was about these three things (body, soul and spirit). The soul is made up of our will, our mind and our emotions and it is often our soul that wants to be in charge. Our emotions can be so powerful that they can easily take over and the same is true of our minds and our free will, when ungoverned, can quite easily lead us down a lot of wrong paths. Our spirits though are quite literally the life within us. The bible says in many places that life begins when the spirit enters the body and life ends only when the spirit leaves our bodies. When we turn to God and start following Him we can choose to ask His Spirit to come and live within us and God’s Spirit and our own Spirit then live together inside of us. It is the Spirit of God and our own Spirit (being led by God) that should be what governs us, not the soul and definitely not the body. When the Spirit is allowed to be in charge then the body makes good decisions and the soul, which is ultimately our emotional response to our life experiences, can constantly be comforted by God.
So why I am writing about the soul, spirit and body you may well ask?! Well it has a lot to do with this picture above. This picture started off as a very scary place for me, but by praying through it, as I painted, it became a place of healing, understanding and safety.
Recently I went away to a Christian conference called Refuel 18 and one of the seminars was about prophetic art. I, as many of you will know, love art and anything creative so it felt like a good seminar to go to. For the purposes of this blog I don’t really need to go into all the details of the seminar, just enough to explain that prophetic art is when you wait in prayer on God and ask Him to show you a picture and with time and practice it is possible to paint/draw this picture and then pray through what God is telling you about the picture. Is He giving you a message for you or for someone else and if so is it right to share that picture or hold onto it until the time is right? It was utterly fascinating and the lady giving the seminar, Sally Snape, said that when she realised she had this gift she couldn’t actually really paint or draw at all and it has only been through her obedience to waiting on God that He has taught her how to make these absolutely stunning paintings. Now when I pray, more often than not, I also get a picture of some kind and the photo of the painting above is the second one that I have actually tried to paint and it tells a message that was very powerful for me about something that I have been through recently, but it was also a message that I think is probably applicable to many of us which is why I am sharing it.
As I was praying I had a picture of the sea and it was so clear that it was like I could see the waves lapping up next to me and ontop of the sea was a little boat and I decided (in my humanness) that the sensible thing would be to get in the boat-thats what you do when out on the water isn’t it? It’s the safe place to be, particularly for me because I would say my biggest fear is being in deep water where I can’t see the bottom. So I stepped inside this boat and sat down on a little seat in the bow and turned to face into the boat. It was a beautiful sight: little boat, blue sea, orange sunset, bliss. But then the boat suddenly quite literally split in two and I was plunged straight down into the deep, cold, dark sea beneath me and I went really far down. I struggled to get back up to the surface and when I did I could feel the salty water going into my mouth and hitting the back of my throat and I honestly cried out “Come on Jesus, I don’t like this picture, why is this happening?” In my flailing and panic I turned and saw Jesus’ head bobbing just above the waters surface a little way from me and again I doubted Him, “Why aren’t you walking on the water? Surely thats where you are meant to be right now?” Nevertheless I dragged myself over to Him and clung onto his neck for dear life. He was so strong and so solid. The panic began to recede but only to break over me again in another wave as I heard Jesus say “Now we can go deeper” and to my utter surprise He took me down, deeper and deeper beneath the surface into the deep unknown sea but the biggest surprise now was that I was no longer afraid. Instead I felt the water on my skin, I felt Jesus’ hand in my own and I felt intrigued to find out what lay in the depths around me.
Now that is quite a difficult picture to draw, there was an awful lot going on but I decided to sit in prayer and wait. Once I had painted the water (just blue at that point) and the two figures (if you can make out that this is me and Jesus!) I felt a little flat and dejected-it just didn’t seem to have captured the essence of what I had seen and in frustration I began to give up until I felt like I heard God say “We aren’t done yet”. So I sat back, closed my eyes and pictured my painting in my head and thats when I saw a heart around me and Jesus. So I went with it. I am using water colours which I have never used before in my life so I felt a bit clumsy as I splodged my heart down on the paper and then, without thinking about it, I started to try and spread the red out from the heart throughout the waves. Even once I had finished I still didn’t quite know what to make of the picture, so I did what Sally had said to do, go away and pray about it.
Here is the answer that I got. Sometimes we think we are safest in our boats on the water because they are keeping us safe and going in the direction we choose to take them in, but what if the boat isn’t keeping us safe? What if the boat is that thing our soul invented when it felt fear and panic and moved into its primitive survival instinct? It feels lovely on the surface but its just a coping mechanism, a strategy to get away from the thing we are scared of. And what if we aren’t meant to run away from the thing we are scared of? What if in fact we are meant to be facing it head on with Jesus by our side holding our hand? In my head Jesus is the one who calms the storms and quietens the waves, but maybe sometimes He needs us to get through that storm in order that we realise that with Him all things are possible. What I have found in my life recently is that the boat I had created was in fact the very thing that let me down, because I placed far too much trust, hope and safety in something that was of my own making, not God’s making. As soon as we make our place of safety somewhere away from God we will always be too scared to get out and swim. So I would just like to encourage you that whatever your boat looks like, God wants you to get out and take a swim with Him because thats where life really begins. The oceans will not be too deep for you and it is only in the ocean, as you cling onto Jesus, that His unfailing love will not only settle around you but seep out into the waves around you. As you can see from my picture the places where that red love (from the heart) has flowed out to the most is the areas where the sea is darkest and therefore deepest. The places that we think are the scariest are actually the places where Gods love rests and permeates the most.
As I prayed I asked for a verse that might confirm that this picture really is from God. Joshua 5 v 17 came to my mind and when I turned to it it turns out there is no verse 17! However verse 15, the last verse of chapter 5 (so right where I was searching) says this “The place where you are standing is holy”. That place where Jesus is able to make you stand up in the water with Him is holy ground and if you stay there with Him then you will always remain on His holy ground.
I can honestly say that since painting this picture I have felt such utter piece about something that has caused me a lot of distress, confusion, pain and fear over the last four months. When in a place of peace, trusting totally in our maker, imagine how much God can do in us and through us! Can you imagine what that race will look like?