contact ME

I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns, thoughts, suggestions, speaking requests, writing ideas, good jokes, great quotes, wisdom, or mind-bending puzzles.

Please fill out this form to contact me.


Grand Rapids, MI

Uncomfortable Lyrics - Oceans

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Uncomfortable Lyrics - Oceans

Tom Elenbaas

Warning: If you love the song Oceans, you may want to take caution in reading this post. Once you read something, it’s hard to unread it. I’m wrestling here with some difficult concepts about living faith within the real world that is unfortunately not as simple as we wish it was.

Many of us have been blessed by the power of the worship song Oceans. I like the song. Like actual ocean waves and tides, the music swells and catches us up in its movement. It has a certain mystical mesmerizing quality to it that modern worship songs have, drawing us in, lifting us up, connecting at deeper levels than we realize. I especially like what seem like subtle nods to Psalm 69 and Matthew 14.

So, I do like the song.

There are, however, some lyrics that I struggle to sing.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

I get where this is going. I get what it means. Our hope is a kind of movement back to the place in the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were naked and felt no shame. A place where they were not afraid to be with the Creator of Heaven and Earth and need to worry about guilt, shame, brokenness, greed, or any number of secret or public sins. There is a beautiful naivete about that garden and Adam and Eve’s place in it. Our now broken and tainted relationship with God is marred by the desire to hide; it is inhibited by the flaming gates that he installed and the walls of protection that human beings built. And so our desire is to go back to a place where there are no borders between us, where walls are not erected to divide us, where we can see the face of God and live, and where trust is more than just words - it is true openness in all things without fear.

I love that.

But what I don’t love is what the sentence has evoked in my heart since the first time I sang it. So many of us have found that trust, without borders, has lead to all kinds of pain. A lack of healthy boundaries has sometimes lead us to places of suffering where we have been taken advantage of. Our naive trust - which should be beautiful and good - has often been the very fertile ground for evil to take root; where blood and mud have covered the innocence of a trusting heart. Honestly, I do not want trust without borders. I do not want my children to have trust without borders. The world in which we live is not a safe place to have trust without borders. We live east of Eden where fig leaves were given to us by the One who made us naked; where a gate and flaming swords were put up by the One who made the garden to be enjoyed. This is not a safe world.

So, I wonder: can I sing these words?

First of all, they are written to God as Spirit. “Spirit lead me…” I am a follower of this God and I do believe he can be trusted, but there are many who don’t. There are many who at least perceive God is capricious or at least either inconsistent not untrustworthy. As a follower of God, I have asked for faith, for an increase in trust, and I believe that God is trustworthy.

Second, though we are singing these words to God, what boundaries are we talking about? Am I asking for trust without borders with those who would hurt me? Or are these words about my relationship with God? I think that needs clarification. When I sing this, I realize that I am singing to God about my relationship with him - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. East of Eden and this side of Revelation 21, I want greater trust with my fellow human beings, but without borders? I’m not sure that’s either wise or safe. Though I’d love to advocate for a Christian love so deep that we open ourselves up to trust without borders, I’m not sure that’s realistic.

Third, borders are not permanent and should be permeable. This side of Eden, trust is something that is both earned and given. We learn to listen to one another, understand one another, love one another, and build trust between us. My walls are smaller, with windows and doors, and are permeable because I give and receive trust - but not without wisdom and care. Jesus certainly asks us to be hospitable and to show love to our enemies; and that should be done generously but carefully.

Lastly, I know too many women (and men, but more women) who have had trust without borders and have been taken advantage of, hurt, and who bear a suffering they carry daily in their minds and bodies. I do love this song, but as a Christian I think we must also be careful what and how we communicate. We should be careful to not advocate naively for a community of trust without borders when too many of us are so broken and take advantage of those borders. We have seen Christian leaders use the trust of their congregations to cross those borders and do incredible damage. We have seen family members hurt other family members.

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 will call upon your name

These are intimate words in a relationship that should be founded on trust and evidenced by increasing trust. Even in a marriage relationship, this kind of trust - to rest in the embrace of someone - takes time, care, attention, and increasing vulnerability. Healthy marriages do not start with that kind of emotional intimacy, and I don’t think our faith does, either. God can be trusted. Our walls can be shattered before him. We can become borderless with him. But that kind of relationship is something that is built over time, spiritual growth, and through experiences of deepening trust in difficult situations. I think it’s important to remember that this is not a simple song for new believers, but a powerful, beautiful, and difficult journey on which we embark with faith, hope, and love.

Subscribe to Embarking Blog by Email