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Kerry Campbell contemplates the spiritual dangers of playing it safe.

I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years in the deep water, spiritually speaking. This is a place where any illusion of control melts away and a person finds herself riding waves, bobbing, desperately scanning for boats, floating, treading water, and sometimes sinking. I’m not a strong swimmer, either in actual water or in the spiritual depths, and I’ve had to depend on God for so much. Maybe that’s a familiar feeling for you in this time of pandemic and uncertainty.


God has come to me as a rescuer, though sometimes not as promptly as I might like, and as a result I’ve built a good amount of spiritual muscle out here. It’s not something I was aware of at the time, but it’s a big part of the purpose of deep water, and it’s something you can only really see and appreciate on the other side of a trial. These days, I do feel as if I’m making my way, carried really, to a kind of shore, and that comes as such a relief. I am so tired, but I’m also energized for next chapters and for the things I’m now ready for that I truly wasn’t before. Trusted voices in my life are reminding me to hold onto the things I’ve learned out in the deep water. When you can finally catch your breath and the sun comes peeking through and the ground under your feet is solid and dry, it is so easy to forget. I don’t want to do that. 

Recently, I heard Beth Moore speak in her series, ‘Memorial in the Middle’ about the story in the book of Joshua about the Jewish people passing miraculously through the Jordan River on dry ground to safety. They made a memorial of twelve large stones on the other side, so the people would never forget what had been done for them. And Joshua made a second memorial in the middle of the Jordan, where the high priests had stood with the Ark of the Covenant while the people passed. This second memorial of twelve stones would be covered over with water and it would only be revealed when the water was low. Most people would never even know it was there, but the ones who placed the stones would certainly remember.

In the same week I heard Ms. Moore speak, my spiritual director urged me to remember the things I had learned during the time of my own trials. And the other day, I opened my devotionals to a reading from Deuteronomy in which Moses warns the people to remember the Lord as they take possession of the land He is giving them. It is so easy to forget when things are good. So easy to forget how you’ve been carried through churning water in that moment when you finally land. 

The warnings from Moore, my spiritual director, and Moses himself were enough to push me to make my list. What have I learned, really, out here in the deep water? How have I grown? What do I see differently now? How has God used this time for good? I answered these questions in the form of a list of the beliefs that I’ve lifted and carried in this last, hard season. Some were so heavy, there were times I thought I wouldn’t make it. But by the grace of God, I’m still walking. 

What would be on your list today? What stones of certain belief could you place right now that you’d want to return to in time? What do you know now, through the crucible of experience, to be true about the nature of God and the nature of your own walk with Him? 

I know how easy it is to forget, and I know there are days when I may fall, but I place stones in this moment as a reminder to myself for the days when the rain will come, or the water is low. Some carry an appearance of simplicity that is deceiving; until you pull on the rope of the truth of your belief statements, you cannot know whether you affirm them or not. And while I wish this clarity for you, at the same time I want to shield you from it. It is a hard, hard road. Today with quaking hands, I’m making my list, and with a trembling spirit, I can truly say that today, I believe it all.

Yesterday, I went paddle-boarding with a dear friend, and I was nervous. I was afraid I would fall, and she was kind enough to lead us safely around the perimeter of a large lake. Before long, I had the hang of it, and I didn’t even fall, kneeling, sitting, and standing as we made our way around. After we had been out there a couple of hours and we were getting hot and tired, it became clear that the best way back was through the middle of the lake, and my friend asked if I was okay with this direct route. And I was.

In this life, we can go remarkably far around the edges, but the deep water is the most efficient way to get where you need to go. Going through the deep middle is sometimes scary and it will most certainly bring you to your knees, but now I know, it’s the quickest and best way Home.

I’m not a strong swimmer, either in actual water or in the spiritual depths, and I’ve had to depend on God for so much. #catholicmom


Copyright 2020 Kerry Campbell
Image: Marlon Martinez (2018), Pexels