Chris reflects on the profound message of Hillsong’s ‘Oceans’
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my saviour.” – “Oceans” by Hillsongs
A close friend once whispered to me, before a Praise and Worship session, that he vows never to sing “Oceans” by Hillsong. Perturbed by his strong sentiments, I pressed him to explain further. He explained that he found the song “intimidating” and “off-putting”. According to him, this song (when carefully sung, that is) speaks of an unadulterated commitment to God, a complete surrender of one’s life to our Lord Jesus Christ – something that he was not (yet) capable of doing. Singing this song – to him, at least – was an intentional and unadulterated commitment to relinquish control of the steering wheel of his life and instead, freely allow Jesus to sit in the driver seat and “take the wheel”. Such profound sentiments!
Now surely, my friend was being a tad dramatic right? After all, do we not just rattle off some familiar tune and raise our hands in the air because that is what Praise and Worship is all about (and what everyone seems to be doing anyway)? Who really pays attention to the lyrics of these catchy Christian songs, and ventures to practice what they preach, anyway? Well, clearly, my close-friend did. And I’m certain that he is in good company too. Therefore, my friend’s visceral reaction to “Oceans” prompted me to look deeper into this beautiful yet poignant song. Today’s article is the result of that reflection.
According to my friend, the first line of “Oceans” terrifies him: “You call me out upon the water / The great unknown where feet may fail.” It is not hard to see why: is it not terrifying that God would call us to the deepest of oceans, to the darkest of tempest, to the most turbulent of sea conditions? Does God really want to test our Faith in this somewhat scary manner? Why put us in a scenario where my “feet may fail”? Why intentionally situate us in such an unsettling and oh-so-troubling scenario? Oh dear!
However, if we look closer to the second line of “Oceans” – and really, the entirety of the song – we should notice that the emphasis shifts from the uncertainty of the “great unknown” to the assurance of “there I find You”. The “You”, of course, refers to God. The focal point, therefore, is not so much the transience and temporality of the turbulent tempest but more so the permanence and unchanging nature of God our Father. Is it not interesting, then, to consider that God is (especially) found “in oceans deep”, amidst the “great unknown”, precisely in the midst of the most troubling periods of our lives?
“Oceans”, therefore, reminds me of the beautiful passage in Matthew 14 where Jesus calls Peter out from the boat and onto the water. Indeed, we are led to deep waters because God calls us by name and beckons us to journey closer to Him; He desires to draw us closer to have our hearts be in complete union and communion with Him. Simply put, Peter walked on water in treacherous conditions because he wanted to reach Jesus. I will venture further to argue that the only reason Peter could walk on water in such treacherous conditions was because he wanted to reach Jesus. Walking on deep waters, in this context at least, was but a means to meet Jesus. Once again, the emphasis here is not the distracting tempest but the person who calls us each by name.
“And I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine.” – “Oceans” by Hillsongs
In Matthew 14:30 we see that Peter “saw the strength of the wind” became “afraid” and began to “sink”. Indeed, it is only when we lose sight of Jesus and shift our attention onto peripheral distractions that we begin to sink to worldly concerns, inordinate attachments and needlessly worries. And yet, even in moments when we do get distracted by the many metaphorical tempests in our lives and begin to sink into seas of our fear and insecurities, Jesus is there. In such trying times, we are called to emulate Peter’s cry: “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Like Peter, we too are invited to call out to Jesus and have faith that He will follow-through; that He will make “everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Furthermore, in Matthew 14:31, we see that “immediately Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of Peter.” I’m actually most touched by these lines because we see actual contactbeing made between Jesus and Peter. Coupled with this very tangible touch is a prevalent sense of urgency. Indeed, this poignant scene illustrates that as Peter walks towards Jesus, Jesus runstowards him in haste as well.
In essence, then, “Oceans” is an invitation– a song that invites us to be led by the Spirit towards Jesus in the realities of our uncertain and turbulent life. “Oceans” reminds us to continually cast our gaze at Jesus rather than the sea of doubts and worries that plague our lives. Indeed, in the midst of endless fears and insecurities, “Oceans” reminds us that God’s grace stillabounds. Moving from fear to hope, from uncertainty to the absolute security of Jesus’ embrace, “Oceans” mirrors the deepening of one’s faith and reflects the metanoiaof one’s life transformed in the Spirit. Admittedly, “Oceans” may be a difficult song to sing and a harder song to live by. Yet, let us also recognise this call to deep, this invitation to trust, this prompting to get off our boats of self-indulgences and false-comforts and walk straight to Jesus.
Are you and I ready to be led by the Spirit? Are you and I agreeable to be led out onto difficult streams – arenas where our souls may be tested, only so that we may grow in faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ? Like gold that is tested in fire and just as the furnace is often described as a place for purification and refinement, let us therefore pray for the courage to listen and the generosity to respond to the Spirit’s call to a deeper communion with God.
© 2018 Christ Centered Convo/Christopher Chok