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 survival instinct and natural to every human and even every animal. Even plants have survival instincts! However, 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. The bible constantly tells us that God is our refuge and our safe place. 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. When this happens we forget that we are made up of far more than just brains and bodies. We are spiritual beings, created with a spirit for communication and unity with our Father. When we are in unison with God we don’t need to worry about that scary place.
This picture below 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, draw or paint it and then pray through what God is telling you about the picture. 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 of waiting on God that He has taught her how to make these absolutely stunning paintings.
When I pray it is not unusual for me to 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 a struggle that I have been through recently. I think it a message 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. Isn’t that the sensible thing to do when out on the water? Surely 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 climbed 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. Unexpectedly though, the boat suddenly split in two and I was plunged straight down into the deep, cold, dark sea beneath me. 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 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. The even bigger surprise though was that suddenly I was no longer afraid of the deep water. This it really surprising. Ever since I can remember, if there is a scene in a film when people are swimming under water or taking a deep breath and then diving down to the seabed, I quite literally stop breathing. My chest becomes tight and I feel panicked and ill. The idea of having to hold my breath whilst swimming in the unknown is terrifying to me. Instead though, in this moment, I felt free as I swam with my hand in Jesus’ hand 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 so I decided to sit in prayer and wait and ask God where I should begin 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 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 to 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? And what if we are sailing it in the wrong direction? What if the boat is the thing we have allowed ourselves to create in our fear filled panic? It feels lovely on the surface, like we’ve found a safe place to crawl into, but its just a coping mechanism, a strategy to get away from the thing we are scared of.
What if we look that fear in the face and ask ourselves this question. 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 in it. I placed my hope and trust 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. Too scared to face the thing that might actually be the thing that makes us stronger. That deepens our relationship with Christ and which allows us to go deeper with Him.
So I would just like to encourage you that whatever your boat looks like, maybe God wants you to get out and take a swim with Him, because thats where life really begins. With Jesus 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, 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.
Even in the scariest of times nothing is impossible for God,