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Learning Surrender on a Cruise

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This month, we are in a sermon series called “Good Gifts,” which is about how God makes his presence and goodness known to all people through earthly gifts like rain, food, beauty, and joy (here are a couple key passages: Acts 14.17; Romans 1.20). As we explore God’s good gifts, I thought I would share with you a piece I wrote in July for Conversations Journal about this very thing.

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We need the eyes of faith and the testimony of Scripture to really hear and appreciate nature’s voice. But make no mistake—nature is speaking. If we listen and open our hearts, God can use the voice of his created world to form our souls.

I experience this whenever I’m at the beach or on a large body of water—especially the ocean.

When I was in college, I had an internship that took me on several incentive trips. Imagine 25 college students on a cruise ship in December. Yes. It was awesome (especially when 18 of us rented mopeds and circled the island of Cozumel, Mexico—but that’s a story for another time).

During those years, I was growing spiritually in big ways. The growth came in fits and starts to be sure, but it was mostly a good time for me spiritually. On one of those trips, I recall standing on the top deck of the ship staring out over the Atlantic water. As I soaked in the sheer massiveness of the water before me, the glitter of the sun off the waves, and even the occasional dolphin playing in the water, God brought to mind passages like Psalm 36:

“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies. 
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36.5-6).

As I imagined the depth of the water beneath me and the distance between me and solid ground, I was moved by how small I felt. The incredible sight before me was actually speaking of the even greater reality of God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice—not to mention his sovereignty, power, and beauty.

 The moment was at once overwhelming and haunting, intimidating and alluring.

God was drawing me in. He was using the world he created to help me learn how to relate to him, in this case, with intense surrender and submission. I felt like a little child in God’s arms (not a bad place to be according to Christ, Matthew 18.3).

I will never get the ocean to submit to my pitiful will. That wouldn’t be fun anyway. The fun of the ocean is in learning its ways and experiencing its beauty and power. Perhaps God is the same. I’ll never get God to submit to me either, and that’s a good thing. Real life is found in surrendering to him, learning his ways, and experiencing his beauty and power.

When we do this, when we learn to surrender to him as the mysterious, overpowering force of love he really is, he promises to take us on the ride of our lives.

I was learning surrender on a cruise ship.

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For me, this story is a perfect example of what our Senior Teaching Pastor, Jeff Manion, said recently, that although the good gifts of God tell us something about him, what if he has more to say? What if God wants his gifts of rain and food and joy to draw us into the biblical story where we can hear his voice even more clearly?

The ocean pointed me back to Scripture. It led me to surrender my heart just a little bit more to the massive Creator God who made the whole thing.

Let’s talk about this:

How has God’s good gifts pointed you toward something deeper, such as the goodness and reality of God?

Has he ever used these gifts to remind you of Scripture or to draw you into the biblical story?

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