I remember the first time I stepped my feet into the Atlantic Ocean. We’d driven across Canada for three weeks or so. Cavendish Beach called. And while the water wasn’t the welcoming blue of the tropics, it was a beach, no vehicle in sight and water as far as the eye could see. We played, my brother and I. Splashing each other with delight. It didn’t matter that the water was frigid, it was joy.
I remember walking on Canada’s coastline at the Bay of Fundy. Above was a gray and gloomy sky. Out beyond was an ocean that had receded from the shore with the retreating tide. Around me stood the sentinels of the Flower Pots. Massive rocks once jagged and fierce were now shaped oddly like decorative exclamation points. Wide on top, narrow on the bottom. I remember watching the water in the distance and paying careful attention to one particular sign. Rather than being one of welcome, the sign warned ominously that once past this point with the tide coming in there was no rescue possible. While I enjoyed the Flower Pots and their uniqueness, I remember wondering with a level of obsession as to when the tide was coming in. It was fear in the back of my mind.
I remember the first time I set my feet in the Indian Ocean. It was another grey day and I had been told that the Indian Ocean is much warmer than the Atlantic. This may well be true but on this particular day, the ocean, didn’t matter which one, was absolutely frigid. However, I had never been this far south in the world and instead of fixating on the cold, I was celebrating a milestone. It was a moment of planting a stake.
I remember watching the waves in Swakopmund. The pier went out into the breakers and suddenly disappeared. Erosion and decay had won the battle of time. However, the waves continued to come in and eat away at what remained of the pier. Looking back on that experience, I wonder sometimes what is eating me. What’s eroding my layers a bit at a time until suddenly there’s nothing left, not even a shell of possibility?
I remember walking from Buffelsbaai to Brenton on Sea. The vastness of the ocean astounded me. As I walked from one beach to the next, the feeling of complete insignificance surrounded me. And then there is the incredibleness of God. His might, majesty and power make an ocean look insignificant. And if that’s the ocean compared with God, what am I but a speck. Regardless I am so important to Him that He knows the number of hairs on my head. It was a moment to bask in His presence.
I remember being fascinated by waves. On the Brenton on Sea beach, there are all sorts of rock formations. During my month in Knysna, I spent as much time as I could on the beach. However, it was camera in hand, shutter half depressed, timing of the waves crashing onto the rocks to get the perfect splash picture. The one day, I’d waded in farther than normal and a wave came from the front, and water circled in from the back and I was no longer dry but I had been the human splash picture. It was the best one of the bunch. It was wet delight.
I may be a landlubber, but the ocean’s water and waves have a fixation that I cannot shake. But it was this particular statement that grabbed my attention this morning.
I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.
When the waves have thrown me down in the past, it hasn’t been moments of joy. As the water fills the mouth and the nose and gets swallowed, it’s panic has me pushing for the surface of the water. A kiss is a sign of affection, of love. I don’t believe I’ve felt that way about the waves that have swamped me. Usually, I then go into survival mode. I will conquer this. I will beat it. It will not get me down. I will dig down into my reserves until I finish it and get it right. That’s not a sense of intimacy and affection, that’s get me outta here!
However, the waves of my life have sometimes dashed me on the rock of my own self-interest and survival. Those have been times of intense frustration. Of wondering why I can’t hear God’s voice. Of flailing my arms to get a handle on what’s going on. Of begging for attention. Of completely missing the mark.
It’s the times when I’ve been dashed on the Rock of Ages that I have had peace in the middle of the tempest. It’s those times when I’ve had hope in the middle of despair. It’s those times when I’ve believed God to be who He says He is that I have been reminded that His hands are big enough to form the earth, majestic enough to hold the heavens and the starry host, and tender enough to hold me close to His chest. It’s the opportunity to hear His heart beat in the midst of the storm that makes me consider that like Spurgeon I should be kissing a lot of waves.
But if I’m completely honest, I don’t want to be kissing waves. I don’t like living in the middle of a storm. I don’t like watching those I love struggle. I don’t have answers to the big questions that keep getting tossed my way. I don’t like the uncertainty that seems to be a now constant part of my days.
To be honest, kissing waves means that I’m getting completely soaked. If your mouth’s getting wet, the rest of you is too. That could be a good thing. You’re living a life fully engaged. A life rich in experiences. A life full of opportunity. However, with all of the positives come the waves of uncertainty, the waves of storms, sometimes the waves of doubts. It’s those waves that threaten to be the undoing of the soul.
But, it’s the landing place once the wave hits that’s the deal breaker. Lying on the bottom of the ocean’s not a good place to be. Dashed on the rocks of despair and discouragement is full of defeat. Thrown on the Rock of Ages, is the only place of hope and promise in the middle of the storm. I pray that that’s where I’m landing.