- Sonya Leigh Anderson
This weekend I will have the opportunity to be a workshop speaker at the University of Northwestern Set Apart Conference. Here’s a teaser from my message, Be Still…
I can still remember exactly where I was standing when my husband told me he’d heard from God. I was in the entryway to our bathroom, and Kyle was at the sink. He looked weary. He WAS weary; he’d been awake most of the night. Out walking the neighborhood, worrying and praying. I’d sensed his absence in bed and prayed silently from under the covers. I prayed for my husband…I prayed for our family…and for safe measure I prayed the neighbors wouldn’t think there was a crazy man roaming the streets in the middle of night. My husband had been doing a lot of walking and praying at night.
That morning Kyle’s weary expression was a tad more hopeful. He said he’d heard from God. He told me quietly, “God said he’ll fight for us, we only need to be still.” I knew the passage.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:13-14).
It was from the Exodus story—Moses leading the people of Israel through the Red Sea. Water on one side, the Egyptian army advancing from the other direction. The Hebrews had made their escape from slavery, but now they looked back in horror. Courage one minute. Terror the next. Just like Kyle and me.
I knew enough from my seminary classes to know we needed to honor the text. Moses’ words to the Hebrew people—this promise from God—it was their story. Applying the promise to my own situation would be what one of my professors dubbed “re-authoring.”
Oh well. This seemed to be as good time as any to re-author a text. After all, my husband had heard from God—and that promise was exactly what we needed…
Turbulent water is one of the Bible’s primary metaphors for chaos and danger. The sea can be a terrifying place, and the biblical authors capitalized on this word picture. Deep waters were places of unknown evils, often associated with monsters and enemies and death. It is no coincidence that in many of the Bible’s stories, God saved people out of the waters.
Actually the very first chapter of the Bible—Genesis 1—is a story of God bringing life out of the darkness of the deep waters.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2).
The Bible’s story begins with the absence of life and order. When God spoke the world into being, He began by creating order…separating light from darkness, water from water, and then land from water. Then God then filled his ordered world with life.
As the Biblical narrative unfolds we see a repeated theme of God rescuing his people from turbulent waters.
Think of Noah and his family, being rescued out of the flood waters. Moses and the Israelites being rescued through the Red Sea. Joshua leading the people to the Promised Land, again through waters…this time the waters of the Jordan River at flood stage.
Biblical poetry is fond of this image, too:
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters (Psalm 18:16).
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me (Psalm 69:1-2).
And then there’s this story from Mark’s Gospel:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:38b-41 ESV)
When Kyle and I found ourselves in a season of chaos, and in need of rescue, God came to us through the waters. Every one of you has your own story to tell about turbulent waters. Each of you has lived your own version of the inevitable chaos of life. Maybe you’re in a tumultuous season right now. Quite possibly you’re reminded of the chaos of the world we live in. Our world is a bit stormy. But even in this, the stillness of God’s shalom is our promise, and our anchor.