I grew up along the banks of the Allegheny River, which is one of the rivers that flows into the great city of Pittsburgh. My home town hosts the huge dam near the source of the river which keeps the river fairly low for the majority of its journey to the Ohio River. Typically, the depth is 2-6 feet and it is a fairly fast flowing river. When we would go canoeing or kayaking, life was pretty easy, especially when going through the shallow areas of the river. The main goal was to steer well enough so you didn’t land on top of one of the rocks in the middle of the river. The best part? You didn’t have to paddle in these shallow areas.
But there are areas in the river where some gravel companies dredged. Dredging is excavating rocks, sediments, and gravel from the bottom of the river. But when a river is dredged, it makes the river significantly deeper. And with a larger depth comes a dramatic drop in current strength. You could always tell when you would hit these areas as the canoe would slow to a crawl and the water became as smooth as glass. These sections were the places you’d have to paddle the most, especially if you were in a hurry. As a kid, I hated these sections because I would have to work to get through these areas, especially if we were in a hurry.
There is something to be said about the work required to get out of deep areas. The deeper the hole you dig, the deeper the river, the deeper into a situation you are committed, the more work is needed to get yourself out. When it comes to sin, the deeper the sin is entrenched in our lives, the more disciplined work is required to get rid of it. But in reality, this is the wrong way of going about it.
There is a song lyric that sums this up well: “where sin runs deep, Your grace is more” which is undoubtedly inspired by Paul’s words in Romans. Often we think that we have to deal with sin on our own, whether it be resisting temptation, finding ways to guard ourselves, or dealing with our past sins that cuts deep to our souls. But thanks be to God whose grace is far greater than our deepest sin. God’s grace extends beyond forgiveness and into our daily lives to defeat sin. His grace is sanctifying, purifying, transforming. So that we can live our lives completely in His grace. Sin becomes less of an issue than before because of His presence.
Now this doesn’t remove a disciplined life from our responsibility. This life is a partnership with God, not a life that is dictated and controlled minutely from on high. It requires effort from us, but when we accept His sanctifying grace our effort isn’t an obligation, but a privilege. A privilege to live a life completely in Him and without the chains of sin.
I think the metaphor of the dredged river works well in this moment. Even though the dredged area of the river was deep and slow, the current still moves the canoe. Sin’s deepest hold on your life will be sometimes the slowest and hardest place to move through, but God’s grace is like that current, still moving and guiding you through the deepest darkest areas of your life. And if you accept that grace and willing to work with God, your paddling will only help you in your life free from the bondage of sin.
So if a sin runs deep in your life and it always seems like you aren’t moving, remember that God’s grace is greater than that sin. It will still be moving you towards God. But remember it won’t hurt to paddle either.