David and I share this in common: We are both not the biggest fans of the beach. We live in Florida, but rarely drive the 15 minutes to the beach. I was born and raised 15 minutes from the beach and never became a beach girl.
We also share this in common: This feeling about the beach, for both of us, stems from an experience. For me, I was about 12 years old. I had gone to the beach with a friend and her family and we were enjoying a sunshiny, Florida day. My friend and I were in the water, near where the waves were breaking, attempting to body surf to the shore. I was never very good at it, but it was fun just to be splashing around in the water. Near the end of the day, a wave took me by surprise. I was distracted by all the things going on around me and I never saw it coming. It was big and it was strong and it overpowered me. The wave crashed over me and took me under. It was probably only a few seconds, but I didn’t know which way was up. More waves came and I tried to swim to the surface but I had no idea where that was and the waves kept tossing me to face different directions anyway. After some turns under the water, I found the shore. The wave was nice enough to throw me onto it, bare back first, with much force. I knew as soon as the wave started to recede, that I hadn’t escaped unscathed. I tried not to cry, but failed. My friend’s mom could probably tell I was embarrassed because she walked me out to the car to check it out. When I made contact with the ground, I had managed to scratch up my entire back. There were so many rocks and shells lining the shore that day so a soft sand landing was not what I was met with. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t know how bad it hurt in the days following. I don’t know how long it took to heal. All of that has faded away, but I have never forgotten the fear I felt from being out of control. David shares a similar experience that left a lingering uneasiness about being in the ocean.
There is yet another similarity we share about the ocean: we were both drawn to it through our hard days. Where David lived in Palm Coast, there were two ways to drive to work. One of the ways was a bit quicker and the other was more scenic and took a bit longer. This scenic route rode right along the ocean and the waves and water were visible for pretty much the whole drive. Even though it took longer, David often chose this route to work because seeing the ocean soothed him. For me, I escaped to the ocean. I wasn’t often able to manage any alone time, but when I did, I would go and sit on the beach. I would journal, I would pray, I would sit in silence and just take it all in. I felt calm out there, but I was keeping my distance from the part that brought me fear.
Last week, I took three of the kids and went to the beach to meet some friends. School was starting later that week, so we were just having one last day to relax a bit. When we found our friends, I started applying sunscreen on children and laying out the ground rules. Ground rules were necessary because Mommy doesn’t go in the ocean. When our friends learned I never go in the water, they decided that needed to change. They and the kids started encouraging me to go out and telling me all the things they loved about being in the ocean. There may have also been a little teasing! I finally agreed to give it a try.
We waded out into the water and I saw in front of me the part of the water where the waves crashed. They weren’t very big on this particular day, but I still flashed back in my mind to the experience of being pulled under by them. Turning back now would mean I missed spending time with my kids and friends that were going out. Moving forward slowly would leave me in the break zone even longer. I decided my best option was to move quickly through the water to the other side of the break zone. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and ran forward through the waves until I got to the other side. You know what I found on the other side? Beauty. On the other side, the water was calmer. The sun shone down, the breeze blew, and I was refreshed.
Because I am me, I started to think about the picture this painted. Suddenly, the ocean was my life. There was a time when I was carefree about life. We all start out this way. I enjoyed it and I had fun and I even played where I could get hurt without fear because I hadn’t been hurt before. Then I got taken down by a big, strong wave. I lost control and the waves that followed jostled me more and more because I was already down. By the end of it, I was left scarred and in pain. I stayed away for some time; developed a fear of what I used to enjoy. I stuck to the sand where I felt safe and secure. The sand was my rock. The sand was where I healed. The sand represented being in His presence. The thing about that sand-it is there under every bit of that ocean. There is no place you can go in that ocean that you aren’t still over the sand. There is nowhere life will take you that you aren’t still in His presence.
A time came where it didn’t make sense to continue avoiding the things that scared me. I didn’t know what waited for me out there, but staying on the shore wasn’t right anymore. Learning to trust again, putting my heart out there again, looked like a long series of waves crashing one after another in front of me. Entering into that again would take the conquering of fear; one step after another on the sand underneath. I didn’t go under again. I kept my eyes open and navigated the waves. It was exhilarating to travel through the waves that scared me, even fun to bounce above them. Having experienced the power of the ocean, I knew better how to traverse the waters then I had before. And then, on the other side, I looked around and saw it: BEAUTY! So much beauty. It was beautiful to set fear aside and enjoy life again. It was beautiful to know the sand wasn’t far below me. It was beautiful to see what waited for me on the other side of my fear: God’s handiwork in my own life. A stunning horizon that is all you can see of the vast ocean that stretches beyond it-a reminder to me of God’s continuing promise to do more than I can think or imagine. The waves are still there; trials will still come. Waves that will require me to trust, to jump and dive at the right time, to stay vigilant in the water. But I won’t live in fear of the waves that will come. That was never the plan.
He reached down from Heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters. Psalm 18:16
I didn’t write this post with this song in mind, but there is a line in this song that says “Your grace abounds in deepest waters” I have seen that line prove oh so true in my life. I couldn’t say it better. If you haven’t heard it, have a listen. If you have, listen anyway and enjoy an impromptu worship moment! Oceans by Hillsong United