She was a girl with thoughts of the ocean undulating through her brain and sea air in her hair. Seagulls and crashing waves replay their enchanting melody in her mind and weave their charm amongst the beats of her heart; it is the steady rhythm of constancy and comfort in nature. Though her toes are now many-a-mile from their sandy resting place, her heart remains covered in sea mist and enraptured with shades of blue.
The ocean, from the view of the shore, is mesmerizing; the heaving and swelling of the sea pulsing with a life of its own; a creature to be feared and revered. So immense and threatening! Such restrained power! Yet it is an enthralling creature; one that draws you toward it and invites you to wade in its cooling, invigorating waters; to walk along its shore and allow the foamy waves to chase each and the other trying to catch your steps that leave their impress in the sand.
Afoot in an artist’s palette of ocean blues and sandy browns; a bright orb of yellow in the early morning casts its watery ray of light across the quiet waves and to the shore; in the evening, pinks and oranges dance across the tinted sky. This is a place to stand and ponder God. One could spend hours seated upon the sand, staring eastward, scanning the horizon; waiting and watching; waiting and wondering.
There is a singular comfort here. We journey to this place, we are drawn here. We walk and think, sit and think, stare and think. Life becomes muffled here. The healing sea air carried on constant breeze, the continual crashing of waves and seagulls swirling and drifting and calling out above serve to create a noisy silence of sorts; a true muffling effect. You can speak to one seated next to you under the canvas striped umbrella, but must yell to one just a ways off between you and the water.
From a child I have been fearful of water, large bodies of water especially. I never have liked the unknown, the things I can’t see; the things I can’t control. Waves are relentless, unfeeling things that care not whether you’ve got your footing or have just swallowed a mouthful of salty water. It is my opinion that it is either enormous bravery or complete foolishness to voyage out beyond the point of visible toes beneath you. I’ve always liked to know what is ahead of me and beneath me, both in uncharted waters or along life’s way.*
Why then is it comforting to be so near to something I find quite terrifying? Perhaps it is because I believe myself to be standing safely upon the shore. And that, at this moment at least, the immensity and the power is for, not against me; and there is comfort in that. It is like the thrill of standing near the tiger’s cage at the zoo. The beast is pent up; it has its fixed boundaries.
The best time to be at the seaside is when there is hardly a person there; just you and the Sea, oh, and that seagull that keeps tiptoeing around your chair. The fall season, when the majority of people reset their normal patterns and disperse, once again, into Busyness and Enterprise, is a lovely time to visit the sea; a perfect time to sit and hear its lessons sweet; to sit at the feet of a master teacher, Creation.
To come before a worldly king, one must bow on bended knee and wait to be received. To come before our Heavenly God, one must release her grip of pride- swelling acts and performances, designed to impress both God and man, and walk softly, lowly, in humble adoration of The Way, The Truth and The Life. To hear lessons of the Sea, or of any great Master indeed, one must cease from the twirling dance of effort and erudition and quietly sit and, with anticipation, listen; with the mind and with the heart.
Filled with salt, the sea purifies, protects and sustains life. Likewise, the Author of Salvation purifies with the hot coal of holiness*, protects with sacrificial interceding*, and sustains life with His breath*. The sea is, in itself, an awesome power. One must deal with it in humility and with practiced skill, respecting the power and harnessing its strength for good. Our Great God, the Maker of the sea, must, too, be treated with great respect, awe and wonder. This respect is shown by humanity in the putting on of the cloak of humility. The ocean’s depths have yet to be plummeted and its secrets fully discovered, nor will they ever be; likewise, our Great God, though revealed in Word and deed, has yet to be fully discovered, nor will He be until we see Him as He is in full splendor and glory revealed to us in the last day. The sea is but a shadow, a mere dampened, water-stained picture of the Master of the waves. The Navy Hymn acknowledges His great power:
Eternal Father, strong to save! Whose arm hath bound the restless wave;
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep, Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
With toes pointed eastward drinking in with all my senses the enormity of the body of water before me, and realizing the frame of dust which is me, and the vulnerability of such a frame, I say with all Scriptural backing, we have nothing of which to boast.* As a humble and dependent creature it is good to know this truth and to anchor one’s soul to it. As I stand before so great a power as the ocean I realize that I am face to face with just another created thing. The God who created us both and limits our reach, and controls the ebb and flow of our tides is one and the same. He hides in the depths what needs to be hidden and reveals that which He chooses. The same God that maintains the balance of the sea and its inhabitants, seeks to have full sway in my heart, soul and mind. The sea, as a caged tiger, paces and roars, threatens and cries out, but is restrained in great simplicity with something of immense power: by the Word of God.
Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it:
and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail;
though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?Jeremiah 5:22
In my pilgrimage I may at times struggle against my Sovereign Lord who says He is working all these tangled experiences into a tapestry fair, and cry out with great roarings to have my will heard, only to have echoed back to me as clearly as the seagull’s cry overhead,
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.1 Peter 1:23-25a
There is a power at work in me more enormous than the body of water that rages before me. This power is at my fingertips, available for my salvation, my cleansing, my daily strengthening. It is available to me as the weapon of choice against the enemy of my soul. It is available for me to use to carry the water of life to the parched and yearning souls around me inviting them to “take the water of life freely.”
Praise God that it is He that holds back the oceans from swallowing the dry land and that I get to observe this unceasing wrestling match that ends always in the sea’s submission, and enjoy it from the sandy beach. As I walk the shoreline, wearied from my strivings and expostulations in seeking to sort out “my will verses Thine”; as I watch The Taming of the Sea, I acquiesce and softly proclaim that submitting to a power greater than one’s self has a comfort all its own. Wrestle no more with God, who has appointed your bounds. He seeks to use your might and main for great benefit to you and to those watching you upon the shore.
*[The Spirit whispers gently to me now, “See, frail one, ‘The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…’ I tell you truly of that which is beneath you. (Deut. 33:27) And as for what is ahead of you… read Psalm 23 and John 14:2-3.”]
*Malachi 3:3, “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.”
*John 17:11, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”
*Genesis 2:7, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
*Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Also, Ephesians 2:8-9.
As seasons of life change, Elizabeth happily remains desperately dependent upon her God. Two of her four children have now branched off to begin their own families. She is a homeschooling veteran and a faithful wife of almost 30 years.