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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

Lurking Beneath the Surface

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

This verse was brought to my attention during my quiet time with Jesus last week. Psalm 139 is a familiar passage; one I’ve read more times than I can count. Today, however, verse 23 struck me differently than usual because of a simple question presented by the writer of the devotional in which it was housed. Margaret Bottome wrote, “If there is anything that ought not to be in your heart, do you not want to see it?” (Crumbs from the King’s Table, 1887) Hmmm, I’m certain the right answer is “Of course I want to see it,” but honestly I’m not sure. I mean what if I ask God to “search me” and he reveals something I’m not ready to deal with yet? As I sat pondering Margaret’s question, my thoughts wandered to a conversation I had with my friend Amy several years ago. Amy and I share a similar affliction. We HATE to be in water where you can’t see what’s lurking beneath the surface. I’m certain we are the product of one too many horror films as young adults. Regardless, the fear is present, keeping us from being people who float aimlessly in lakes and oceans. I know; it’s tragic. Personally, I’ve learned ways around this issue by only wading about thigh-deep in any ocean – even the clear blue Caribbean. Let’s be honest, even if I can see clearly, this will only ensure I see what will eat me if I’m too far out, right? And in lakes, well, I’ve found a way around them too. I purchased a massive “lily-pad” floatation device that allows me a thin layer of water to cool down on but keeps me safely above the murky depths below. Amy, however, is a no-go, ever, and her reason is simple. Years ago on her honeymoon, she was gifted a parasailing excursion as a wedding present. Now in addition to her water fear, she also fears heights. However, she decided to push past both for the sake of her friend’s generosity. While the whole ordeal ended with her in one piece, the event only solidified her fears about the water. Flying high above the Gulf of Mexico, Amy could see what those splashing around in the water below could not. Fish, massive fish – some obviously sharks – lurking only yards away from unaware swimmers. It makes me quiver thinking about it! This imagery immediately changed my perspective when I again thought about Margaret’s question. “If there is anything that ought not to be in your heart, do you not want to see it?”

Her question in tandem with Amy's story made me realize. If I were in the ocean, I would definitely want to know if something was lurking beneath the surface that could harm me. How much more should I desire to know if God sees something lurking beneath the surface in my life that could do harm? Much of the fear and anxiety that surrounds us in this life can only be addressed if we ask Jesus to bring it to the surface. Depending on what it is, the anxiety may not completely go away, but in his grace, Jesus, alongside a good counselor or pastor, can help us learn to manage it. The question is, are we willing to invite him to search us?

For Your Reflection… What fear or anxiety currently holds you hostage? Would you be willing to ask God to “search you” and see what comes to the surface?


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