There were plenty of opportunities for me to learn to swim prior to Mrs. Humphrey’s 10th Grade swim class at Garden City West High School. I just never learned. My parents paid for swimming lessons. I didn’t learn. My Aunt Alice and Uncle Dick had a swimming pool. We were at their house nearly every weekend in the summer. I didn’t learn. At the Nazarene Camp grounds, my time at the lake was spent playing in the shallow waters with the other non-swimmers. I never swam.
The shallow waters offered no threat. When at a lake, I could jump and splash in shallow end, never venturing past the rope with the blue and white buoys. I couldn’t swim out to the dock and jump off the ledge like the other big kids. I couldn’t display any feats of strengthen and endurance by swimming across the lake. Shallow water was all I knew but it became increasingly unsatisfying as I grew older. No 14-year-old wants to be splashing around with toddlers in the shallow waters, but that was all I knew.
Churches are full of people living with a shallow faith much like me prior to Mrs. Humphrey’s swim class. Their surface devotion to God becomes less and less satisfying but it’s all they know. Shallow living believers tend to have one foot on the beach (in the world) and the other foot in the living waters of Jesus. It’s easy to be distracted in such surroundings. It’s easy to abandon the lake all together and take one’s toys and go home– just hop out if you don’t like what’s happening. Shallow-watered faith followers don’t experience a deep wholeheartedness that results from being immersed in the fullness of the love of Jesus. They don’t comprehend the profound satisfaction and joy unspeakable that comes from a bottomless trust in Jesus. Shallow living becomes increasingly unsatisfactory and maybe that’s why so many tend to make waves not disciples.
Do not think this shallow brand of Christianity is new or a by-product of the pandemic. Paul and the author of Hebrews didn’t talk about shallow believers. They used a different metaphor (baby-food-eating followers), but it’s the same thing.
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
By this time, you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid fool! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:12-13
Jesus talked about shallow people, in his parable of the Soils (using dirt not water as his example) when he said:
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Matthew 13:5-6
According to Jesus, shallow followers don’t last. It’s impossible to have a foot in the world while standing on the promises of Jesus. Shallow-end followers get nervous when the preacher starts using language of a deeper commitment, wholeheartedness and living life with open hands toward Jesus. They are uneasy with diving into the deep end and relying solely on Jesus for their future. Like it or not, this leaves them in the unfulfilled, worrisome, in the muck of doubt-filled shallow waters. Some people spend their entire life splashing around never venturing past the buoys and into the fullness of his grace. Others, unsatisfied, walk away leaving the waters of faith altogether.
My brothers and sisters, we must dive in the deep end with Jesus if we want everlasting joy. Immerse ourselves in His love. Trusting that he will carry us through the tough times. It’s being wholly committed with an undivided heart. It’s the call to the deeper life, the holy life. Jump in with both feet. The living water of Jesus is refreshing and good.
I didn’t stay in the shallow end. Thanks to Mrs. Humphrey in the 10th grade, I learned to swim. No one will confuse me with Michael Phelps these days, but now I can “Nestea plunge” into the deep end and not worry. I long for that same confidence in all of us in the deep waters of faith.