These lyrics to “In Over My Head,” a song by Bethel Music, recently caught my attention:
Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, I’m where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head1
I’m not sure there’s any better way to describe the transition in life right now. I’m preparing to leave behind a stable job with wonderful coworkers, move out of the coolest house I’ve ever lived in, and say goodbye to a city I just came to know and love. These are inevitable when it comes to the move to Cambodia.
People don’t talk about this part of missions much. It’s the part that some people point to and say is crazy or even stupid. It’s the part that the “missions-minded” (why is that even a distinction among church members, anyway?) often gloss over in their enthusiasm that the Great Commission is being fulfilled.
It’s the part that is a hundred nitty-gritty, contemplated decisions about leaving people, places, jobs, and what seems like security. It’s the part that means accepting that we aren’t in control but we’re free—we’re free when we let the Lord crash over us and our lives, stepping away from the comfort of the shore until we are way in over our heads.
Helpless, powerless, struggling. Isn’t that what “in over our heads” means?
These are words we don’t like to talk about. In fact, these are words we as the Church often deny. To say that ministry is beyond our ability sounds like heresy to these Southern-Baptist-raised ears. Isn’t this what we were made for?! Of course it’s within our ability!
Yet the reality of missions—and ministry, and life—is this: if we think it is within our ability, we are dangerously deceived and in for deep disappointment. Interestingly, a confirmation this is the right thing to do is that every morning that I wake up and think about moving, I am driven to my knees. Thoughts of moving and ministry make me so aware of my inadequacy that I cling to Jesus more and more desperately.
For me, one of these inadequacies lies in the reality that moving involves taking a huge risk with mental health and depression. My well-oiled coping mechanisms will shift and change, and I will be challenged to find new ones in Cambodia.
My roommate Taylor (who is also a nurse) had a patient once who was paralyzed from the neck down. Taylor came home struck by the patient’s utter dependence: if she wanted a sip of water, she had to ask; if she wanted to change the channel on the tv, she had to ask; if she wanted to turn the lights off, she had to ask. A discussion on the patient’s needs led me to consider: is dependence something that is learned, or is it something that is recognized? We say we want to learn to be dependent on God. But maybe we have it wrong…
Maybe we are always dependent on God. Maybe we just don’t recognize it.
In Colossians we read that Jesus “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” and in Acts that “in Him we live and move and have our being.”2 We cannot take a breath without Jesus, for it is through Jesus that our very cells hold together. We don’t just need Him spiritually. We need Jesus to exist.
We are all in over our heads.
It isn’t the act of moving that makes me need Jesus more. But the step of moving makes me more aware of my need, reminding me I’m already in over my head here in the States. This, I believe, is a step in the right direction.
Daunting and uncomfortable as this step is, ”whether I sink, whether I swim // It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.” Sink or swim, fail or succeed, struggle or thrive, it makes no difference when I am more overwhelmed by Jesus than ever before. Really, all is success if I find myself deeper in Christ than before. And so maybe thriving and struggling aren’t polar opposites, after all.
Whether it means moving overseas or intentionally breaking comfortable routines Stateside, may we be a people who step out in faith and recognize how helpless and incapable we are, may we live in a state of being overcome by Christ’s adequacy and love, and may we be a people who recognize that being in over our heads is truly the most beautiful place to be.
2) Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:28. NIV.