“Change. . .is highly over-rated.” — One of my co-workers.
“That’s one of the beauties of the ocean. . .it’s always changing.” –My aunt D.
“In the Bible, God doesn’t compare Himself to the sea,” one of my brothers commented.
“I know, but He can tame this.” He can tame this. This water that’s alive, churning, pulling, grasping, taking, smashing, climbing up onto the land and then retreating in frustration, only to return again, later. No mystery, and no monster to Him.
My aunt D. encouraged us to go out beyond where the waves were breaking. “You’re getting yourselves all smashed up! You have to learn to go beyond.”
So we went with her. We waited till that pause, where the waves looked rounded instead of sharp, and we ran out into the water.
“Go further,” she said. “Go further, go further.” Already fear begins to tug at you. You are leaving the shore. Leaving all you know and can stand certain on. You can’t see the ground. Where does it slope? When will your feet lift away? The water is rising higher and higher on your body. The ocean has you in it’s grasp now.
She tells us what to do when the water comes. She explains. Grade school biology tugs at the back of your mind. You know she is right.
Oh, and then the wave swells.
The water is pulling back, back, back. It will take you with it, it will pull you out, it will keep you in its power–fear is rising, you dig in your heels, no, no, no–
“Go to it,” a different aunt, standing behind you, voice unexpected. “Go, go, go!” she urges.
So you go to it. You run toward the mounting wave, piling up high above you. You run, and before the wave has a chance to break its crown, you jump into it. Your feet leave the ground, the water lifts you–carries you. Effortlessly you rise, head above the water, taller than you’ve ever been. The water lets you down, your feet find the ground; behind you, you hear the wave crashing into the shore–into the shore, and those not out deep enough.
Watch the sea. Watch it. Here comes another. The pull, the fear.
“Go,” says the voice behind you. “Run to it!”
What happens if you don’t go? You hesitate. You can’t break the fear quickly enough; you move, but too slowly. You see the wave towering, and you can’t bear to jump into it. You brace yourself instead, determine to make yourself unmovable in the face of this terror. Put your shoulder to it, anchor your feet–
And in an instant you are blown, as my knitting instructor would say, ass over tea-kettle, ground into the sand, scraped up onto the shore. As you try to stagger to your feet, another wave breaks all around you, pummeling you again, slamming your body into the ground, saltwater reaming out your sinuses and sand pooling in your ears, pieces of shell cutting into your skin.
I am not much one for change for the sake of change. I cannot find myself sitting there thinking to myself, “How beautiful is change!” But I have found that change, like each rolling wave, is inevitable and unstoppable. Sometimes I think that when we see change welling up before us, and the fear threatening to own us—sometimes I think if we could just be calm enough to listen, there would be that still, quiet voice, just behind us, in our ear.
“Go,” it says. “Run to it!”
Run to it? We don’t want it!
“Go, go, go!” it says.
And if we can find the courage and faith to listen, to obey, to run forward, to jump into it—
We find ourselves carried, lifted on the wings of an eagle, head above the water. Our feet leave the ground, and we’re buoyed by a force we can’t understand. Our feet return, but our eyes are ahead, always ahead, watching. Around us we hear others–choking and spluttering as they try to pick themselves up after hesitating, or even further behind, fighting the breaking of the waves.
No, God is not a shifting, changing, turbulent force. He is the solid rock, anchored and unmoving. The waves crash on Him without avail. But He rides the thunderclouds and He tames the sea. There is no mystery before Him, and there is no fear. The wave mounts, and it is His voice with us, telling us to go, to run forward without fear. And we go, not because the waves are safe, but because God is there.