Aquariums creep me out. You go look at a bunch of water animals as they either stare back all glassy-eyed or hide nervously, one curious toddler away from an aquatic psychotic breakdown. The plaques are cool, though. You can take your time and learn more about what lurks in your local lakes than you ever, ever, ever wanted to know. Check out the lovable turtles as you stroll along. Study living sharks from the security of the other side of the glass. The vast array of sea creatures neatly lined up and ready to be beheld is incredible.
For a long time, I treated faith like an aquarium. When I got the urge, I’d mosey around stories of slavery and snakes, trees and triumph. I loved to read the plaques about little girls raised from the dead. But my favorite part was Jesus. He, like the sharks, was safer behind that glass. I could admire His graceful but unpredictable movements and stay untouched. Then I’d wander away to look at something else—angels or history or suffering or apologetics. It was all very interesting to an educationally-minded kid (translation: nerd).
And I believed it. I believed it like someone who spends her whole life at the aquarium but who’s never felt water.
Peter, on the other hand, had a slightly different experience than mine. This guy grew up on the waves; he was a professional fisherman. When Peter met Christ far from the boat, ripples sloshing around his sandals, fear and joy mixed with wonder and settled deep in his chest. Everything he’d known about the sea changed forever. How can you possibly look at a body of water the same once you’ve stepped across the top of it? He came home smelling like fish and Jesus. I came home smelling like sterilized glass and cotton candy.
There must come a point in every life where we allow the living God to break free of the pane between us and Him. Of course it’s scary; His majesty and holiness and wrath are terrifying to any sane human being. But oh, friends, His mercy. His compassion. His affection. His deep longing for us to know the intensity of His love. His determination to rescue. His goodness. His faithfulness. All that is trapped behind the glass with Him, too.
If you’ve spent years (like I did) analyzing Him from a respectable distance, the time is approaching—and is now here—for you to get tired of that tidy but worn-out cage. Because, in reality, it’s yours, not His.
As odd as it may seem, we are the ones behind the glass. The Almighty, the King of the Universe, is precisely where He means to be: in control of the world, ruling and reigning in all of His glory. But when faith is something we just observe from afar, we’re the ones who don’t know freedom.
I grew up in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, sang Jesus songs incessantly, and in a way only a Southern seven-year-old can do, “invited Jesus into my heart.” Got baptized. Served on the student leadership team. Married a youth pastor. Worked in ministry with teens and college kids. I guess you could say life was going swimmingly. (Ha.)
Then God tapped on my glass and winked. It was horrifying.
I entered into a year of wrestling with Him—the sweaty, messy, Jacob kind that leaves you with a limp for the rest of your life—but once He’d won fair and square, I could never be satisfied with an aquarium faith again. It’s too dry. Like Peter, give me the salty wind, the crashing horror of waves, and the outstretched hand of the One who never wavers. There are no janitors out here mopping up, just a pounding heartbeat and an expanding soul. No informational plaques, just history in the making.
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
(“Oceans” by Hillsong United)