When I was a girl I loved to float on a raft, soaking up the sunshine and resting on the water. I did this in our pool, but I especially loved to do it in the ocean where I could be immersed in the vastness of the sea and the sky and be carried along by rolling waves. I felt God’s love for me and longed for more.
Many years later I heard a message that God’s love is oceanic, but we come to it with our little Dixie cup and say, “Thank you very much” and then we walk away. I realized that was me! I professed to know that God loved me but my behavior, attitudes, and emotions showed that I didn’t fully trust God. I was settling for a Dixie cup of living water when God was offering me a whole ocean!
No More Dixie Cups!
For instance about eight years ago Bill was asked to help lead a retreat for pastors and other leaders and I didn’t feel invited. I knew that I could go, but I didn’t feel wanted or needed. It seemed I wasn’t recognized as a leader or as Bill’s partner in ministry. I felt unseen and inadequate. It seemed that God had set me aside. I didn’t trust God.
Then I remembered about the Dixie cup. I sensed God say, “Kristi, why don’t you trust that my love for you is like an ocean?” I took this literally. I decided that God was inviting me to float on a raft in the ocean with him as I had done when I was a girl.
So while Bill was away ministering to pastors and leaders I was floating on a raft in our little Jacuzzi! (Without a wetsuit it was too cold for me to go in the ocean.) Instead of giving into self-pity and thinking that God was withholding something good from me, as I had been doing, I took a risk to trust God and believe that he wanted to minister his love to me in this special way.
Learning to Be Held in Abba’s Love
When I got a wetsuit I went to the ocean. It had been many years since I’d done this so I felt scared. Would I trust God? I stood on the shore and watched the rhythm of the ocean to learn when it was safe to go in. Then I paddled hard to push out beyond the breakers. Once I got a ways out I was thankful to have left the security of the beach behind (it was also crowded, loud, and distracting!) and be venturing out into the ocean.
It took awhile for me to learn to relax fully on the raft, to settle into laying back on the ocean, but I prayed that God would support me and hold me, that he’d help me to rest in his love. I began to feel a soothing peace, like I was being held and rocked by God as my Abba Father.
Soul Training with Jesus
When I was young I floated to get tan and to feel free! But then I’d find myself immersed in God’s beauty and I’d start to be enthralled with him and to worship him. When God drew me to go back to the ocean as an adult I knew he was inviting me to use floating on a raft as a spiritual discipline. (You’ve probably never thought of floating on a raft in the ocean as a spiritual discipline — I hadn’t either.)
I needed to overcome my tendency to doubt God’s love. I needed a renewed image of God because deep inside I carried a fearful idea that God was holding back his love from me, or possibly angry at me, and instead I needed an inner confidence that God was always willing good for me. I wanted to learn to live immersed in the ocean of God’s love for me!
An important part of my soul training with Jesus has been memorizing Bible passages on God’s love. For instance, I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 and then I meditated on this while I was floating. I prayed that I’d trust God to fill me to overflowing with his love so that it would come out of me naturally to my family and friends, my therapy clients, and others.
I prayed the attributes of God’s love that are in this famous Love Chapter of the Bible, starting with, “Love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). God your love for me is patient. What are the ways I’m not trusting your patient love? What are ways I am experiencing it? Then I’d thank God for how patient he is with me and I’d pray that he’d increase my trust in his patience. I’d do that for “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4) and all the other attributes of God’s love. (That’s an old spiritual discipline called the “examen of consciousness.”)
Meditating on Scripture and praying honestly from my heart while I was floating helped me to trust God as my loving Father and receive his emotional healing and empowerment.
Trials and Temptations
Of course, my readiness to trust God has been tested. When things don’t go well for me I may be tempted to think negative thoughts about God, that he isn’t willing good for me. Or I may be tempted to feel guilty and bad about myself.
I’ve learned to pray, Father, help me to trust that you’re good and you’re loving me, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. And I talk to God about my difficulties and how I feel. I also look for evidences of the reality of his goodness to me in my situation. Then I go back to Scriptures I’ve memorized.
Another “Electric Bible Passage” that I’ve memorized is Romans 8. When we doubt God’s love or sink into feelings of guilt and shame we can say with the Apostle of Grace:
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… He has not given me a spirit of fear, but has set me free… He’s interceding for me… He works all things together for my good… He called me, justified me, and adopted me… He has loved me and given himself up for me… No one can bring a charge against me… Nothing can separate me from God’s love… (Paraphrases of Romans 8:1, 15, 26, 28, 30, 32-33, 39. See also “Renewing your Mind in Romans 8.“)
You Can Experience the Reality of God’s Love
Perhaps you relate to my story? You’ve heard the truths about God’s love, as they’re expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 8, and you’ve known them in your head and professed to believe them, but maybe you haven’t been experiencing them as reality, actually available for you in your life circumstances today.
We don’t have to settle for Dixie cups of God’s love! We can lay back into the arms of Jesus and float on the ocean of Abba’s love!