Experiencing the Ocean

Despite having regular access to my mother in law’s house in Fenwick Island, Delaware, my kids were far from beach babies. As small children, they steadfastly refused to dip even a toe into the salt water as it rushed onto the sand. From their vantage point on the shore, the ocean was simply too big. Too loud. Too overpowering.

On one visit, during a heat wave, I remember sitting on our blanket, feeling the sweat dripping of off my body. Sand clung to my skin in an abrasive layer. Even the shade of our umbrella offered little relief from the stifling temperatures. My children played nearby, seemingly oblivious to being on the surface of the sun.

“I’m going to jump in quickly,” I told my husband. “Just to cool off.”

I carefully worked past the wave break until I could dunk under the oncoming swells. My flushed skin broke out in goosebumps of pleasure as the cool water washed over me. I let the waves gently lift me and settle me onto the soft ocean floor, held and rocked by the tide. Eventually, I forced myself to turn back. I spotted my family immediately.

My husband was at the water’s edge, attempting to point me out to my daughter, who was inconsolably screaming, her mouth open, head thrown back. My sons ran back and forth along the damp sand. I couldn’t hear them over the waves, but I could just make out the shapes of their mouths screaming “COME BACK!”

When I finally reached them, they threw themselves at me, their faces tear-streaked. They were hysterical, clutching me and sobbing. “Mommy!” my oldest cried. “That was so scary!”

I wondered how the same thing I found so comforting could be so frightening for them. But as I held them, trying to reassure them that I was fine, I realized: I had experienced it. They hadn’t.

For me, the ocean wasn’t just the deafening roar of the surf. It was the feel of the soothing water on my skin. The gentle swaying of the tide. No wonder I couldn’t comfort them. How can you describe the feeling of the waves to someone who has only seen them pounding violently into the shore.

When we think about giving God control, for many of us, it’s like looking at the ocean. It’s too big. Too scary. We would rather stand on the sand, holding tightly to our ideas of how things should go, even when we’re miserable. We learn to trust Him only by experiencing Him. After we have felt His solace at a time of discomfort, it becomes hard to imagine sitting in sweltering heat instead of being refreshed by the water before us.

When life is overwhelming and we feel afraid, let us remember what happens when we take the plunge and pass the breakers. God is there, God is always there, waiting to lift us up and gently settle our feet back on the ground.

The Bible tells us much about trusting God in times of discomfort and fear. Matthew 14:22-33 is a great scripture to reference to learn more about this.

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