When I was a pre-teen attending Girl Scout summer camp, all were required to take swimming instruction. The first day we made a mad dash to the river bank eager to plunge right in and learn to swim in one easy lesson. To our disappointment, day after day we received lessons on how to float. None of us received our Beginners patch until we mastered that first stage.
In lifestyle and career style I’ve always been a swimmer—an active go-getter, setting my own goals and swimming upstream against the current like the salmon, if necessary. Floating seemed too passive for me.
It has taken long years, decades, scores of years and personal failures for me to understand that in spiritual matters the Lord is working on us, teaching us to float in the sea, which is Himself. Paradoxically, the floaters and not the swimmers get places and accomplish the important work of God’s Kingdom. It is only in floating that we can live the Spirit-filled life and realize the destiny He had in mind when He gave us life and chose us for Himself. There is a significant difference between working for God and allowing God to work through us.
I am very far from being a good spiritual floater, but now I think I see what God is getting at. I try to put it into action in the daily Morning Offering of myself to God, a lifetime practice based on Romans 12:1, 2 which, as a teen, I chose as my life verse. “I offer (present) my body as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, my spiritual worship.” I’m thankful that in my mid-eighties, for my Morning Offering I can still kneel on the floor at my bedside (and more important—get back up!) and also kneel in Church--which I guess keeps me limber! Presenting my body, soul, and spirit to God is the beginning of my prayer-offering.
Then I fill in the details of my needs for that day as I see them, with the bottom line: "I want to do Your will on earth as it is done in Heaven. Fulfill in and through my life today the purpose for which You gave me life." (Of course God already knows my heart, but I am reminding myself that I want to follow God's GPS all the way, all the day.)
I conclude with “Lord, put me in the river of your will today so that I may float with the current of Your Holy Spirit and be carried along to fulfill Your destiny in and through my life. Bring into my life today everyone and everything You desire so that I may either be a blessing to them, and/or they can bless me.” In this way I can be sure that whatever happens--whoever calls, comes, or touches my life in any way, and whatever the interruptions to my own plans for the day--is by God’s sovereign appointment and for His purposes.
Floating demands little skill; it only demands letting go and trusting the water to hold you. That is contrary to our self-preservation instincts. The more we resist relaxing, the more likely we are to sink. If we relax in the water, no matter how the waves might roll, we can safely “go with the flow.”
Spiritually, floating is to have confidence in God and His plan and His support. Like the swimming instructor, God’s strong hand is beneath our back assuring us that we will not drown. Floating is initiated by inviting God to become the absolute Lord of our lives. As the swimmer is intensely active and intent on going to a place he has chosen, the floater yields to the flow of the current. Yes, the floater is going someplace too, but his destiny is the concern of the current that carries him. God determines the goal; the Holy Spirit is the current; we are not without direction. We can confidently float in chill of “the dark night of our soul” as well as in broad daylight in the warm sunshine. It is our decision whether to swim or float, whether to plot our own way or leave everything to God.
In applying this to our prayer lives, for the most part we are swimmers—we use the strenuous efforts of our own faculties, our knowledge and intellect. We itemize to God what we want Him to do; we tell Him how to do it and when; we monopolize what should be a dialogue. We don’t seek silence and solitude so we can hear His voice, feel His impressions, and understand His mysterious intentions. We need to learn to float free and give the Holy Spirit a chance to initiate His intercession within us, to pray through us and with Him for the business of His Kingdom and the people who are on the heart of God.
God doesn’t want us be content with a Beginners patch either in the matter of prayer or absolute trust in Him. He’ll guide us out into the deeper waters, to float into the midstream of His will. When we present ourselves to the Lord each morning and launch out to float on the river of God’s will, we’ll be going somewhere that with our finite minds or human efforts we can’t predict or control. Nevertheless, if we are floaters, it will be somewhere far better than the destination and the route we could have charted for ourselves.