Wastin’ Time Tied to the Dock of the Bay (or, If You Want to Follow Jesus, You Have to Get Off the Dock)

Summertime and the livin’s easy.


Time to kick back, relax, and enjoy the sunshine. Which brings one of my favorite summertime tunes to mind, the classic by Otis Redding that goes a little something like this,

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay//Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh//I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay//Wastin’ time.

-“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding (1968)

As I am a beach/ocean/water lover, I picture myself in the song. I hear the gentle lap lap lap of the water against the pilings of the dock as I run my hand over the rough wooden boards (careful, there may be splinters), evening-golden sunlight shimmering across the bay. An easy breeze is blowing, and a fishing boat, far in the distance, heading somewhere, stirs up a white wake as I wiggle my toes in the not-quite-green but not-quite-blue water.

I am happy, I am content, and I am not going anywhere (I’m also a sap, but that’s beside the point).

The scene that Otis Redding’s lyrics create in my mind is one from childhood. When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived on the Chesapeake Bay, and I fondly remember sitting on the dock, watching the tide roll in and out (I also remember being stung by a pink jellyfish and the terrifying feeling of beginning to sink in some black quicksand, but I’m going for the good vibes here).


Point being: on the dock, I was safe. I was happy. I was secure. But once I left the dock and was in the water, anything was possible.

Like pink jellyfish and black quicksand.

Many years later (i.e. two days ago) I read something by Oswald Chambers that got me thinking.

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and to send you out to sea. Put everything in your life afloat upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and your eyes will be opened. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself….

-from My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers

Dang it.

Y’all, I’m just gonna be honest. I struggle with this.


While I may not physically be “tied to the dock” at present, I am often “tied to the dock” spiritually. The dock of safety. Of security. Of control. Of fear. Of uncertainty, anxiety, and worry.

My dock’s not sounding so great right about now.

Jesus is out on the water, calling to me, beckoning me to follow.

I’m standing on the dock, scanning the horizon. Any hint of a storm and I’m high-tailing it back in the house.

Jesus waits patiently. Smiling.

I inch forward.

He assures me that he will be with me the whole time, but I have to step off the dock.

I stop.

He promises adventure.

I take three steps in his direction, closer to the edge of the dock.

He says it will not be easy–even painful.

I take two steps back.

And so we do this dance, Jesus and I.

Well, I’m really the only one dancing. An electric-slide with two left feet at that.

Jesus isn’t moving. He is at peace, not in a hurry. The very picture of the security I long for.

It’s then I realize that my dock is shaky. Not as stable as I thought it once was. The wood is beginning to rot and there are splinters everywhere.

Jesus warns me that my dock isn’t safe. If I don’t jump, it’s going to collapse with me on it.

I have no other choice.

After what feels like an eternity (to me, not Jesus), my little girl toes are curled over the edge of the dock, gripping so tightly that they’re turning white.

Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe my dock really is okay.

I tell him I want to know the whole plan. Will I be safe if I jump? What about the pink jellyfish? What about the black quicksand?

What if, what if, what if?

He just tells me to trust him.

The dock creaks and I feel it shift. I look at Jesus and then back at the dock.

Now or never.



“Follow me.”

I suck in a gulp of air (holding my breath so as I’m resembling a puffer fish), squinch my eyes shut, flail my arms, and leap, expecting certain death (and if not death, at least a horde of jellyfish or a quicksand monster).

But death doesn’t come. Neither do the jellyfish or the quicksand monsters.

Arms. I feel arms around me. Someone else’s arms.

I open my eyes.

Jesus looks at me, grinning ear to ear, chuckling.

And then I realize that I am with him. On the water.

Walking on the water, Jesus places me in his boat. He steps into the bow and takes the wheel.

I am in the middle of the bay.

Instantly, I am at his side, turning the wheel this way and that, trying desperately to get the boat to head toward the land, but getting nowhere.

Jesus gently takes my hands from the wheel, and kneeling down, looks into my eyes.

“My child, this is my job, not yours.”

My eyes ask a thousand questions, but no words come.

I settle on the seat beside him and content myself with wondering.

He turns the ship, and suddenly, we are headed toward the horizon. Where the sea meets the sky. The edge of the world.

“But, Jesus! Where are we going?” I pipe out anxiously, clutching a life preserver…just in case.

Jesus gazes at the horizon. Calmly, steadily, confidently, as if he’s been this way before and knows what’s up ahead.

“Out there.”

My eyes widen.

“Where?” my insatiable curiosity asks before I give it permission to.

“You’ll see.”


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