Sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; His holy arm has shown his saving power!
I stood on the coast of Portugal this past summer and looked west and saw the edge of the continent of Europe. At one point this was the end of the known world.
I stood on the rocks looking out at the Atlantic Ocean and I didn’t admire how calm it was. Rather I half depressed my shutter and waited for the crashing waves to hit the shore. The peaceful ocean, not so intriguing. The waves crashing in, absolutely fascinating.
I stood in the Gulbenkian museum and admired fantastic art by magnificent painters of the past and present. However, the images of peaceful and idyllic scenes didn’t hold my fancy, rather it was the desperation of a shipwreck that capture my imagination. The peaceful bits were glossed over until I arrived at the crash.
I’m clearly drawn to the ocean. I love it’s crashing and it’s intrusion into the world around it. It moves the sand constantly into and out of the beach. It contours the rocks until the shoreline does not resemble what it looked like before. It moves ships, freighters, boats and tankers with a whim, breaking them all to bits.
I sometimes feel like God is an ocean that I’m swimming in. The magnitude of his love and grace is so enormous it really cannot be grasped. He moves and demonstrates his power in ways that defy description. Sometimes it is a simple touch, other times it is a gentle whisper. At other times he shouts my name as he watches me tread out into the ocean of choices and possibilities without consulting his wisdom and guidance. Other times, he is perfectly still. Full of calm, silent reassurance that all is well regardless of how I feel.
But there are times I feel like a sailor in the painting Wreck of a Transport Ship by Joseph Mallord William Miller. The sailor is mostly under the waves and his arms are stretching out in desperation, reaching for those who have clambered to safety. They are desperately holding out arms, sticks, anything they can get to rescue him. They both have a mission, get this one to safety.
Too often in my relationship with God, I’m the sailor. I’ve let myself or found myself in a desperate situation and it seems that there is no way out of it. From my vantage point, it is absolutely impossible. The rescue operation is a guaranteed failure. In my narrow sighted desperation, I’m missing the view of above as God is reaching out his hand to me. He doesn’t rely on some puny stick for me to grasp. Rather, he is holding out his powerful right arm which is mighty to save. There is no other need for any other life saving device. It is simply out of love that he reaches into the pit of the ocean storm that I have found myself in in order to pull me out of it.
However, there are too many times when I slap his hand away because I think I can solve it myself. Or I think his method is too simplistic and something more “clever” needs to come in to execute the rescue operation. Since when have I ever known better than God? And yet, so often I treat him with this casual disregard as I descend further below the surface of the waves and struggle to get a breath of air. Is gulping salty ocean water better than holding His hand?
The times when I grab onto his hand, the rescue is not always imminent. Sometimes the consequences of what I’ve chosen have to be lived through. However, at other moments, the rescue is instantaneous and I’m immediately pulled to safety, dried off on the shore and set to rights again. It is mystifying to me how often I forget about God’s rescue ability of and for me. I unwisely think that I know better even though his plan keeps being revealed in me. In the moments when I do remember to gain his wisdom, he often leads me through the stormy ocean in a way that surrounds me with his peace and presence. I wish I would remember this more often because I know there are storms I could have avoided completely if I would have followed his plan right from the beginning.
Father, I come bearing the tribute of my life – all the bits of me that I think are treasure. You have always had a plan to get me through the challenges that have and will assail me. You are the lighthouse that I can count on to guide me in the paths you have for me. Whether the seas be calm or stormy, your plan is better than I could ever hope for. And in those times when I require a rescue operation, help me to call on you because your plan for me is better than life and it is full of hope for me. So when the storms come, may I call your name living in the hope that only you can give.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end.