At the River
Thoughts on Depending on God and Letting Jesus Lead
When I tune into vision while in prayer, Jesus often meets me at a river. Off in the distance, I can see bright green grassy hills, and on the edge of the shore, there is always a crowd of people that I am very aware of. When I first learned this technique of meeting and listening to Jesus, it seemed the crowd of people was the most important part of the vision for me. I wanted to be with them, to be seen by them, for them to approve of me. It was very difficult to follow Jesus and sit alone with Him.
My question for Him was almost always to the effect of: How long do I have to sit here before I am healed enough to relate to those people the way you want me to? How long before I can go back among them and be who I really am?
But Jesus wasn’t at all interested in answering any questions of time–He just wanted my company. He would sit on the edge of the shore swinging His feet in the water.
Initially, I found this very frustrating. The longer I sat with Jesus, the more aware I became of my own insecurities. I feared that people would forget me if I was not always “present,” always “on.” I tried to explain to Jesus how much people needed to be able to rely on me, and that I had commitments I needed to fulfill.
Instead of depending on God, I was trying to disguise my fears with dependability.
Many times, I tried to walk away from the shore, yet Jesus would get up to follow me. He was always with me wherever I decided I wanted to be. But deep down I knew something was wrong with this. Something was clearly wrong when Jesus was following me: I just couldn’t justify being in the lead.
Letting Jesus Take the Lead
We all want to be able to say that Jesus is Lord of our lives and that we are completely surrendered to His will. This whole idea of Him following me challenged that belief in so many ways, and made me feel rebellious and stubborn. So I would try to stay in step with Him, so that I could at least say I was walking with Him. I thought I could have peace with that. And maybe in years past, I would have.
But the more I experience inner healing and allow Jesus to dismantle my negative belief system, the harder it is to ignore His voice, and the easier it is to hear His heart even when He isn’t speaking. Maybe there would come a time when it was perfectly acceptable to walk side by side with Jesus along the river bank, but for me, it was definitely not time yet. Because I wasn’t really walking with Him. That was all for show. In my heart, I was still leading.
I could feel Him tugging at me, calling me away to sit with Him on the shore. I really didn’t mind being with Him. I didn’t necessarily mind the sitting. Every time I decided to be obedient and sit with Him, He would reveal some invaluable truth to me or heal a very broken space in my heart. It was always a very peaceful, liberating space. I would always come out of my prayer and journaling time feeling refreshed and renewed.
Even so, I found the length of time this took to be extremely frustrating. Am I not healed yet? I wondered, as He sat peacefully. Are we not done? Can we go now!? Obviously, Jesus didn’t understand how important it was that I be with the crowd along the shore that I could still see. I mean, what good is a relationship with Jesus if other people can’t see it, right? I needed Him to walk with me so other people could see us together and know how important and special I was.
Yet the longer I sat with Jesus, the more real it became to me that people didn’t necessarily need me as much as I thought they did–or, if I was honest, as much I really needed them to. This wrecked my sense of identity, and I hated it!
Sitting there with Him was soon not enough: He wanted me to focus on Him and not be aware of the crowd at all! He wanted to be enough even if no one else existed. He showed me that I had made people my everything, and He had become just an accessory to my life. He wanted to reverse that for me.
The process of finally surrendering was emotional. I had to face all the empty spaces in my heart that were left vacant when people pleasing was no longer an option. It forced me to have to look into the eyes of Jesus to figure out who I really was.
This was a really scary thought for someone who spent most of her life believing Jesus couldn’t possibly really love her for real. But Jesus was loving and patient. And on the days that I couldn’t bear to look Him in the face because I was so overcome with shame that I would bow my head and stare at the ground, He would get down on His knees and look up at me. He would stare into me with a love so piercing, as if to say, “I am here and I am enough and you are enough. You don’t need anything or anyone else to make you whole, to make you….you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I am madly in love with you.”
Depending on God to Break Down Walls
This relentless love was wrecking my theology and breaking down all the walls I built to protect myself. But somehow, I was no longer afraid. Jesus, somehow, being the infinitely loving gentleman that He is, found a way to completely dismantle my entire belief system, the foundation on which I built my whole life and based all my decisions, brick by brick. And, despite all my preconceived notions of Him and how this process would turn out, I was not destroyed. He strategically replaced each core lie that I had believed with a new truth.
These days, I have no problem sitting on the river bank with Jesus, swinging my feet in the water. In a world where there is so much malice and hatred attempting to attack our identities, day in and day out, there is just nothing more freeing than being daily reminded of who I am by the King of the universe! Who–get this–delights to sit with little old me. Imagine that!
Lately, it is not uncommon for me to meet Jesus and find that we are no longer sitting on the shore. I see Him standing waist-deep in the water, and I am completely submerged. I notice, though, that my hair always still seems to float on the water. No matter how deep I dive down into the water, I still feel like I am right next to him and my hair is still visible above the water. It is almost as if the deeper I go, the longer my hair gets. I see him still above the water, running His fingers through my hair, removing debris, untangling it. He is very intentional about it. I asked Him one day: what does this mean? Why is my hair so long and prominent in this scene?
He said, “Your hair is your glory. I am restoring you to your former glory.” I realized in this moment that the crowd along the shore could no longer see me at all. If they looked at me or for me, all they could see was Jesus and my hair floating above the water. He said “I am making it so when they see you, they only see Me and My glory in your life.” In that moment, I was okay with that. All of a sudden, it was enough. I don’t need to be seen and known by man. I don’t need to be validated by his opinions or his thoughts of me. I am seen and known deeply by my Father in heaven and that is more than enough!
Written by Sherika Chew, Prayer Ministry Intern. She is excited to use her gifts in this new role to introduce churches and ministries in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, to the benefits of prayer ministry. Her hope is for the body of Christ in her community to start making prayer ministry a part of their everyday spiritual disciplines. To learn more about Sherika, click here!