The Art of Sinking

I really can’t listen to “Oceans” by Hillsong United without getting a little teary-eyed now.

It’s a beautiful song, packed full of daring truth, with a resolve to push followers of Jesus beyond their made-up “limits” and actually do something that matters. But there’s another reason that this song gets to me.

For mine and my wife’s tenure in Middlesboro as church planters, it was our anthem. We felt like we were some of the ones being called “out upon the waters.” We knew that we were in the “great unknown where feet may fail.” The story of Peter walking on water towards Jesus, then falling, but then being saved, was at the forefront of our minds. We knew that we were in the midst of a life-changing work, and that literally anything can happen.

At least I thought I knew. I would belt this song out at church while we still lived in Grayson, right before we moved to Middlesboro. I was ready. We were ready. After all, we had asked God to call us out upon the waters, and he did. Clearly.

Fast forward some time later, and we were packing up a U-Haul, leaving Middlesboro. I was crushed, and I felt like that, like Peter, I had slipped under the waves.

I don’t want to dwell on this, as I’ve dealt with this in past blog posts. And I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it. But I feel like this song, which inspires this feeling, should come with a disclaimer.

If you ask God to call you out upon the waters, he will.

I know this sounds too elementary, but it’s a truth that needs to be wrestled with. If you ask God to use you to do something bold and drastic, he will.

I’m not saying that you will plant a church, or even move to a city where you don’t know anyone. But you will be face-to-face with a situation where you will freeze with fear, yet look forward with anticipation and excitement. I don’t know what that is for you, but you probably do. And you will, like Peter, step out of the boat. But there is a risk involved.

If you step out upon the waters, you might sink.

I’m not being negative. I’m being truthful. Of course, God is there to save you, just like Jesus did with Peter. But it might happen. It’s not fun, it is painful, and you will flail about like you are drowning (partially because you are).

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t want it any other way. My wife and I could have played it safe and stayed where we were. But ignoring God’s urging on my life would have driven me crazy. Plus, I would not be anywhere near where I am now spiritually. I’m definitely not saying I know it all or have it all figured out (sound familiar?), but I do know that I am significantly further along than I was pre-Middlesboro.

Peter sank like a rock.  So did I.  And you might, too.  But it’s OK. God is right there with us.

Christians every Sunday shout out this anthem, but I don’t think they realize just what they are asking. They are asking for something wonderful, but they are also asking for something that could sink them. This means that worldviews, pride, thoughts, inklings, and previous knowledge are all shattered. Sinking like Peter means thinking like Peter in that moment. All he could say is, “Lord, save me!” So it was with me, and so it might be with you.

Maybe this needs to happen. I’m convinced that if more followers of Jesus sank like Peter and shouted out for saving, the world will be a drastically different place. We would all be further along in our spiritual journey than what we previously were, and our insignificant pride and insufficient worldviews would be shattered. The end result? A better and stronger follower of Jesus.

I do not think it’s a coincidence that 1 Peter and 2 Peter, found towards the end of the New Testament, are so full of wisdom. Peter didn’t write these texts as a hear-say piece. He wrote them with almost a grandfatherly wisdom, for generations and generations to read.

Truthfully, as I read 1 and 2 Peter, I’m thankful Peter sank. As I look back on my journey thus far, I’m thankful that I sank, too. And I’m sure that if the same happens to you, you will eventually find it in yourself to thank God for the past events that soaked you.

So, sing this song with all your might next Sunday. Just be aware that God might actually do what you ask him to.


5 thoughts on “The Art of Sinking

  1. Thanks for sharing your heart, Sean. It isn’t easy to let others see the wounds of experiences that hurt us, even when they ultimately molded us to be better kingdom workers.
    I think it’s where we get it all mixed up. We run forward with anticipation that God will do EXACTLY what we ask of Him. But He will always be more concerned with our hearts than with our happiness. God called me to Indiana for the season that I was there. Right before my big move back to Kentucky I was so sure that I knew what His plans were for me. And then they didn’t happen.
    I didn’t get some church job. I didn’t move to Cincinnati to follow my friends. I didn’t have it all figured out. And that season molded me. My disappointment helped to form me to be the woman my husband needed me to be.
    But it NEVER feels like it makes sense in the midst of the desert wandering. Maybe it’s the dehydration. Or the mirages. Or the same cacti day in and day out. But when we ask God to do Big audacious things? He will. He does.

    And it rarely looks the way we want it to.

    Ashley @

    • Thanks for your words, Ashley. That’s one huge thing I’m learning now. God calls us to a place for a season. Obviously, God thought it was good for me to be in Middlesboro as a church planter for a season. I’m only now seeing the beginning of the reason(s) why.

      • Steve Jobs talked about only being able to connect the dots looking back. And I agree. We just can’t understand it all in the thick of it.

  2. lgwhite67 says:

    Excellent post! Thank you for sharing! My favorite line from this song is”Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” because while I’ve dedicated myself to Christ … I often hold back. Sometimes I play it too safe and I’m not as bold as I believe He wants me to be, but I’m coming to understand that if I will just trust in God completely, He will use me according to His will!

    • So true! Sometimes, especially when I’m frustrated, I will think of God as C.S. Lewis did in the Chronicles of Narnia: a wild lion. He’s not safe at all, but he’s good. And let’s be honest, I’m not OK with “safe.” I want this will that he has for me, even if it means going to a place where it REQUIRES my trust be without borders. So, basically, I can see what you’re saying. Thanks for sharing!

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