On Monday Paul and I went for a night swim in the ocean and I was sort of rescued by a lifeguard. Stop laughing. It happens.
He didn’t have to get in the water or anything, but he could tell I was struggling so he parked his truck right in front of me and turned on his brights as if to say, “Hey girl flailing in the waves, I see you. I’ll come get you if you start to drown.”
Meanwhile, my husband was out past the crashing waves and had no idea I was getting repeatedly pummeled and pulled by a current that refused to let me swim to shore. It was a little scary and a little more embarrassing. I’m a grown woman. I thought these rescue operations were a thing of my youth.
See, I was rescued several times as a teenager. Rip currents can be such a drag. I was rescued once in my mid-20’s, but that was only because Christy (9 months pregnant) and I didn’t watch the news to know a hurricane was coming or notice that no one else was in the water. (There were no lifeguards so a random, concerned man swam out to get us.)
As a California kid, I am well-acquainted with the water and have known for a long time that while it is beautiful and peaceful, the ocean can be freaking terrifying as well. My family has spent the last week at the beach so I’ve had lots of time to watch the waves and think about the many ways the ocean is like God.
5 Ways the Ocean is Like God
1. They both bring peace and are enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life.
or a yogi holding her pose while gazing at the sea,
or an elderly couple strolling beside the crashing waves,
or a seasoned surfer “shredding the gnar,”…
everyone seems to be mesmerized by the ocean. We flock to coastlines like moths to the flame. And while some of us are content to sit and stare at the water, others of us dive in.
Isn’t that true of God as well? Many are content to sit in pews and learn all about Him without actually engaging Him. Others are hungry for more and dive in, not satisfied with merely hearing about him, but desiring to truly experience Him and know Him and feel His love crash over them.
2. You don’t have to see them to believe they exist.
Many people have never been to the beach, but they don’t doubt the ocean exists. So it is with God. You need not see His face to know He is there. Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about this truth:
I never saw a moor;
I never saw the sea,
Yet know I how the heather looks
And what a billow be.
I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven.
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the checks were given.
3. They are both filled with beauty and wonder and mystery.
There’s a reason we all fell in love with The Little Mermaid. We go sailing and snorkeling and scuba-diving to experience this truly fascinating and hidden world under the sea.
(This was the scuba adventure in Mozambique when my friend Lisa threw up UNDER THE WATER and fish surrounded us to eat her puke. One of my favorite life moments thus far.)
We scream and point and are filled with delight when we see dolphins playing in the surf. We marvel at the creatures found on the end of fishing lines. We put conversations on hold when the sun illuminates the clouds and sinks behind the sea.
Both the ocean and God fill us with awe and reminded us just how small we really are.
Just as we can spend our whole lives exploring the ocean depths and still never discover all there is to know, so too God is a God of mystery and unknown depths. We experience Him in new ways every year and even 95 year-olds continue to learn and understand new things about our truly awesome and mysterious God.
4. They are both wild and powerful and unpredictable.
If you’ve ever been tossed around by a crashing wave, you know the sea is not just beauty and peace and tranquility. It is strong and will not hesitate to flip you around till your nose is full of water and you don’t know which way is up.
God won’t beat you up and leave you gasping for air like the ocean sometimes does, but He is still wild and unpredictable. One of my favorite parts of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is when the Beavers tell the 4 children about Aslan, the lion, the Christ-figure.
“Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” But their brother Edmond, who has gone down a path of sin and betrayal, has quite a different reaction. He felt a “sensation of mysterious horror.”
Then when the children find out that Aslan is a lion, they are all struck with fear. They are talking with Mr. Beaver and they ask him “Who is Aslan?”
Then Lucy asks, “Is—is he a man?”
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King. I tell you.”
Like the ocean, our God is good. But He is not tame. He cannot be controlled or manipulated. But He is oh so very good.
5. They both deserve fear and respect.
If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you’ve most likely seen the video of Mick Fanning, the pro surfer who was attacked by a shark during a competition in South Africa. You guys, he punched the shark and swam away unharmed! I just read his interview on BBC where he talks about the attack and how his friend swam towards him to help. Buckets of tears over here.
Sharks are no joke. I know they say more people die every year due to deer than to sharks, but that statistic means nothing when you’re in the water. Especially since this summer we all had to evacuate the water after an 8-foot Great White bumped a surfer not too far from where we were swimming. Yowzers!
Naturally my 8-year old nephew twisted the story and when telling his cousins about the shark, HE became the one bumped by it. Makes for a better story, doesn’t it? In his defense, my dad confessed to bumping him under the water to make him think it was a shark. What are grandpas for if not to scare the bejeezus out of us?
Not only should a shark fin instill a bit of healthy fear in us, so too should rip currents. Obviously I am a bit foolhardy when it comes to currents, but the ocean demands respect. The power of the waves and the currents cannot be ignored. They must be respected. Or else.
So must God.
We needn’t fear Him as we fear sharks, but we must respect Him. We must acknowledge that He is more powerful than we are and that He holds our lives in His hands. My pastor recently said, “Your morality is shaped by your fear or lack of fear of God.” If there is no fear of God, no reverence or respect or acknowledgement that He is holy and will one day judge us all, well then you will not live in a way that pleases Him.
And just as one will suffer the consequences for not respecting the sea, one will face much more serious consequences for refusing to respect God.
On that note, I’m off to the beach. Hopefully I won’t need any rescuing.