You Call Me Out Upon the Waters


This post was written by Laura Starnes.



Hello. My name is Laura. I don’t like change and for the majority of my life have lived in fear of it. Sounds almost like a support group introduction, right?

My list of fears is long and for the most part ridiculous. Some are justified (well as justified as fears can be), but others are downright crazy.

Here’s a sample of my Top 10 Fears-

  • Disappointing people that love me
  • Disappointing people that don’t even know me
  • Flying in planes (this has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older)
  • Making the “wrong choice” for my life
  • Disappointing God
  • The Unknown
  • Never getting married
  • Getting divorced
  • Not being able to have children
  • Getting skin cancer

The fear of the “unknown” associated with a new activity/thing is what terrifies me most. I can rationalize many of my general fears, but Satan loves to parade this particular one in front of me until I crawl back down in to my pit of despair and cower. Thankfully, God’s loving and gracious hand always pulls me back out, I gain a little more ground, and we start the battle all over again.

Change and trying new things do not go over well with me. They never have. Even as a child, my mom would give me a 5-minute warning when it was almost time to change activities to prevent a melt down equivalent to the tornadoes from Twister. I always want to know what is coming next so I can prepare accordingly.

So when the Lord called me to go to Swaziland in March, I did just about everything I could to bargain my way out of it. After receiving a message that there was one spot open for the Swaziland trip, I initially thought it was a joke. The thought of myself in Africa was as hilarious to me as a cat wearing a fairy costume. After finding out that it was indeed not a joke, I took it a little more seriously and went to the Lord in prayer. Within the hour, He said, “Yes, go.” He even brought Scripture to my mind to confirm it.

I flipped to several highlighted and underlined portions and eventually landed on Matthew 20:19-20, which I had underlined and starred. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

And on top of that, I tried to flip a coin to get out of it. Heads – I’ll go. Tails – I’ll stay. I could NOT get that sucker to land on tails! It still amazes me to this day. So, on March 6, I committed to going to Africa on May 24 (It was less that 3 months away).

I was eerily calm about my response, which was odd. Usually, I am instantly overcome with anxiety and fear whenever I have to make a big decision. The cost of the trip alone was enough to make me need a Xanax, but to add flying over a body of water to the mix – I’m surprised I didn’t have a stroke right then! However, over all of this there was a peace so wonderful it could only come from one source, Jesus.

The next weeks were dedicated to fundraising – writing support letters, selling cakes & brownies, and saving every nickel and dime I could spare. I don’t know about you, but as a recent college graduate who was working part-time, even if I had liquidated everything to my name, I could only MAYBE have enough for the plane ticket. I have never prayed so expectantly in my life! And sure enough, I only had to contribute a small fraction of my own money to my trip cost. God is so faithful!!

Until about two weeks out from our departure, I was good-to-go with regard to keeping my fears in check. (Notice I didn’t say I had given them to the Lord at the foot of the cross. No, I kept them tight and close.) I could feel the anxiety rising within me, but I chose to ignore it. To give you a visual, I would liken it to smelling something burning in your house, yet having no intention of investigating what is on fire. To those around me, my house looked like it could be on the cover of Southern Living – a perfectly manicured lawn and a beautiful red brick edifice to house the raging flames within. I managed to maintain face until the very last minute.

The night before we left, I sat on my couch and cried for hours. I was terrified. I had traveled internationally (actually, almost 5 years to the day). I had never been to Africa, but I’d traveled to England, Spain & Portugal, so that counts for something, right? WRONG. I could not get myself together. I was okay with leaving my family, friends, and super adorable dog for 10 days. And in theory, I was okay with being in a new country, with new people, doing new things. But the mere thought of traveling 16 hours in a tin can of recycled air over the Atlantic Ocean was TERRYFYING!!!

The only thought that kept racing through my mind was, “Lord, you have made a mistake. You didn’t choose the right person. I’m not made for mission trips. I belong in the South. I will never complain about the heat and how the humidity messes up my hair ever again. PLEASE get me out of this!”

It’s funny how we begin to bargain with God when He calls us out of the boat.

But this wasn’t the first time He had “called me out upon the waters.” The Lord had called before, and when He calls I always do one of two things: I will either drag my feet and eventually get around to being obedient, or I’ll completely ignore what I know I’m supposed to be doing and make my life much harder in the long run. Why is it so hard for me (us) to be obedient to God? We know He only wants to refine us for our good and His glory. We know obedience brings blessing. In today’s world, we know so much, yet we are still paralyzed by the fear of the unknown – the what ifs.

What if I take that job in that new city? What if they don’t like me? What if we adopt a child from a foreign country? What if I sell everything I own and move thousands of miles away from the people I love so that I can share the story about the One whom I love the most?

I can’t always answer all of my “what ifs,” but I can firmly answer that when you are obedient, your Heavenly Father will bless you more that you can possibly imagine.

So, surprise, surprise, God didn’t get me out of going to Africa. Instead, He blessed me more in those ten days than He ever had in my 24 years of life.

I sat on the dusty ground and wiped dirty little faces with the hem of my skirt as I fell in love. Being in a new place, surrounded by new people, doing new things didn’t seem so scary anymore. I was literally being the hands and feet of Jesus to the least of these, and I’ve never felt so at home and at peace. To spend time with people that have almost everything going against them, and yet are so joyful is life changing. Despite their circumstances – Jesus is enough.

He is more than enough for you and me too. We are blessed in this country with more than we deserve, yet we keep it to ourselves, not wanting to do without. We ignore our calling to get out of the boat because our friends might talk about us, because it may be difficult, because it is new/different/scary…the list goes on and on. We make excuses, tell ourselves lies, and beg our God not to make us uncomfortable.

I understand that not everyone is called to Africa, but we are all called out of the boat daily for the advancement of the Gospel and for the work of the Kingdom.

The next time I’m called out of the boat, I’ll probably still drag my feet a little bit. What can I say? I’m a work in progress! But my prayer for us today is to seek the Lord’s will and be obedient when He calls. Yes, it may be different and may be a little scary, but that’s why He gives us His word and the Holy Spirit, to guide, affirm, and comfort us.

What “unknown” is God calling you to today? You may not know the outcome of “unknown,” but you can surely trust the One who is calling you there!

Trust the Lord. Conquer your fears. Get out of the boat, friend!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

– Romans 8:37

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