Stay Off the Rope


2 Corinthians 3:17–18 (NIV)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 


“Wake up sleeper and rise from the dead . . .

Your turn: “And Christ will shine on you!” 

Aspiration . . . Actuation . . . Activation

I hear you. You are struggling with the words, the concept, the whole thing I am trying to say here. It’s because I am struggling. You are struggling with my struggling, which means we are struggling together. And this is a good thing. It is as it should be. We are dealing with the God of Heaven and Earth here. We are trying to wrap our minds around mystery. We want it to be simple, and it is—at heart. It is not complicated and yet it is complex. If it feels complicated then this is a sign of my inadequacy, not yours. However, I can’t apologize for the brilliant complexity of the mystery of the Trinity, the enormity of the intricacies of the mind of Christ and the baffling realities of the gospel of the kingdom of on-Earth-as-it-is-in-Heaven.

You see, there is the simplicity that precedes complexity. This is the simplicity of a child. It is the necessary shallow end of the ocean. Then there is the simplicity on the far side of complexity. This is the simplicity of the saint, the mark of mature faith. This is the deep end of the ocean. 

I remember the swimming pool at the little country club of my growing up years. It was a plain rectangular pool with a progressively graded surface. It started around 3 ft. and proceeded to about 12 ft. At about the 6 ft. mark there was a rope stretched across the pool with blue and white smallish football like sliding floats every three feet or so. Nothing was more satisfying to a five-foot-tall kid as hanging on that rope. It was that nether place between the shallow end and the deep end; a safe place where you were kind of in the deep end but not really. The kids all loved to hang out on the rope. It was the place where you were no longer a child but you weren’t yet an adult. And did I mention the favorite four words of the life guards?

“STAY OFF THE ROPE!” (shouting)

Can we be honest with each other? When it comes to life and faith and more particularly, the life of faith, we want the rope. We come to the place where the water is over our heads. We don’t want to go under. We also quickly tire of treading water. With a couple of steps we can easily be back in the shallower water. The rope is perfect, we think. No one ever gets their sea legs hanging onto the rope. No one ever learns to swim hanging onto the rope. No one ever launches out into the deeps hanging onto the rope. We all feel the problem. We so often find ourselves in the deep end of life and yet in the shallow end of faith. 

And the lifeguard, Jesus, shouts those same four words, “STAY OFF THE ROPE!” 

Why? Because the rope quickly becomes nowhere in the life of faith. The rope represents aspirational faith at the level of sentimental comfort food religion. We comfort ourselves with the assurance that we could or might really go for it with Jesus sometime later. Or the rope represents enough money to keep our problems at arm’s length or enough wine to help us forget them.  On the other hand, the rope represents an endless cycle of religious activism—striving and failing and recommittment and regression. And once you start hanging onto the rope, others will join you and before long the whole church will be hanging onto the rope. From there it will collapse under the weight of it all.


Here’s the beautiful truth about the deep end of the ocean. Jesus isn’t asking us to endlessly tread water or worse to gut it out swimming our way across. He invites us into the boat he is piloting. Don’t get me wrong. He will let us tread water as long as we want. He will let us swim as hard as we can. In other words, he will graciously allow us to come to the end of ourselves and all our striving. It is called the gift of desperation. 

It can be disorienting and disconcerting, but the deeps are meant to lead us to places of desperation for God—places where the exasperation of our problems and the exhaustion of our pain leads us to the lifeboat of his presence. We have wanted to swim back into the shallows a thousand times and at least a hundred times we did. Yet Jesus so patiently pulls the boat back to the place where the bottom drops off, looking for anyone willing to board and take the journey into the deeps.

It is why we wrestle here with words like actuation, which is just another way of saying the actualization of Jesus Christ in you—which is another way of saying being filled with the Holy Spirit—which is another way of saying, “I am the boat and You are the captain now!” 

It is high time for most of us and past time for many of us. The good news is there is still time for all of us. It is not too late. 

It’s about actuation and the great self examination query of actuation: 

Do you realize that Christ Jesus lives in you?”


Still day one. 


Father, I want for my life to be lived such that when I am long gone someone might say his life was a lesson on launching into the deeps. What this means is you will have to take over. Yes, Jesus, I am asking you to take over. I want for your life to be actualized in my life. No more wishful thinking. No more cozy sentimentality. No more avoidance or addiction or abdication. No more striving. Holy Spirit, unless you fill constantly and comprehensively, I fail. Thank you for bringing me to this gifted realization. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen.  


What does the rope represent for you? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. Faith adventurers are Christ-following disciples who go beyond the rope that marks the boundary of shallow religious boxes and begin to flow on the depths with the risen Jesus. They let go of the bottom and trust the buoyancy of Jesus’ living water to keep them afloat.

    When life is getting over your head, the living Head of the body of Christ can always keep your head above water even when you can’t touch the bottom. You don’t need to constantly cling to the rope that marks the end of the shallow water. Trust in His buoyancy, the upward overflow of His inner geysers of living water, to carry you safely in the refreshing thrill of His deep-water-will for you. Let go and let Jesus. Cling to the risen Jesus as your lifesaver ring and ride His current wherever He wants to take you.

  2. JD, this is such a timely question. I and an elder at a local Co Christ congregation have been co-facilitating a mens Bible class on Wednesday nights for about a year now. It is composed of mainly leaders from a diverse group of local congregations, some Co Christ, some Presbyterian, some Baptist, some non-denominational and some UMC. We’ve been going through Francis Chan’s book, Letters To The Church. It deals with making an honest self examination of why we “do church” the way we do; whether it’s God’s way or whether it’s just the way we’ve always done it. Being an interactive discussion type of class, it’s been revealed that there’s a lot of what you’ve termed “Holy discontent “ with the way things currently are. There seems to be a lot of consensus on the need to employ some sort of what we would term Methodist class meetings structure, but many of these guys are still “clinging to the rope”. As leaders, they are hesitant to try something that might cause folks who are too comfortable with the status quo to walk away in order to cling to something more familiar. I believe Jesus experienced the same sort of thing in John 6:25-66. All this is say that for me, the rope represents comfortable Christianity.

  3. i am still hung up on order, Aspiration . . . Actuation . . . Activation. No. i think we actuate by activation. scripture is loaded with Do’s we must do. we go from being a’ normal’ but unsaved person to saved – reborn, regenerated by an act of faith rom 10: 10-12. we progress into perfection by similar acts of faith. of course, you know all this. However, and to this i agree – that us trying to ‘activate’ by our own strength – aka in the flesh – by our natural means – is indeed an ‘endless cycle of religious activity’. we need 1) rebirth, and 2) the HS alive and active in us. and that 2nd step is what i was hoping your HS course would tell us how to get – the all power world creating HS alive in us, just as he was in Jesus. your interview with Tennant was wonderfully telling. it is an act ( a do) of faith. we do ( tennant submitted to having spirit filled hands laid on him).. he- the HS – came in power. and we then surrender to His promptings and do what he says to do, all the time in faith believing that he is there telling us what and how. and this is the hard part – we do this even when it seems nothing is happening. we keep on keeping on. and as we do, His spirit become increasingly activated in us. and Wahlah – the glory of the Lord is progressively revealed. and don’t get me wrong. if we try this process in the flesh – we tire quickly. we must see somehow – His manifest presence from our acts of faith. and this is the reward. as we do – and keep doing, He indeed shows up, in ever increasing glory. We SEE Him active,. we look into that mirror and see not us but Him. Seeing manifest outcome increases our faith, the process builds on itself. But it all starts with Do. and Do is ‘to Do the Word”. No Do outside the word gets any results, only ‘ ‘endless cycle of religious activity’. Doing the Word is by definition – Life, satisfaction, fulfilling, peace, love joy, ……….all things good. in a word, doing the word is blessing. Of course, i can tell by your seedbed texts you know all this. sometimes it takes another pair of spirit filled eyes to re enumerate this to you.
    yours in Jesus – John Kesting

  4. Could Jesus also BE the rope?
    The place we can go when we are overheads. A place of comfort when a loved one suddenly dies. A place of security and safety when life overwhelms us. The peace we need when anxiety attacks us like a swarm of bees.
    Maybe the rope is the line between comfort and faith, but living by faith and not by sight is less risky when I know my life jacket is Jesus.
    John 16:33
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

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