My one request for my 45th birthday was to go to the ocean.
My husband Shawn and three daughters took me to a little beach town along the Central Coast of California called Cambria. I didn’t realize until we arrived that this was the same town my late husband Ericlee took me for my birthday almost 20 years ago.
The memories flooded back. We were barely married a month when Ericlee told me to pack a weekend bag because he had a surprise for me. We drove three hours and checked into the same quaint lodge near the coast.
Suddenly, I was a twenty-something married girl walking through the sand hand-in-hand with my love. We had our whole lives ahead of us. We made footprints in the sand and dreamed of what our life might be like in twenty years when we had kids, ministry, and full careers.
The ocean has been my place of refuge since I was a little girl. I did not grow up by the ocean but we would make a point of going to the beach when we visited my grandparents in California or when we traveled for other family vacations.
Maybe it’s my Polynesian/Pacific Islander heritage, but the ocean has always been a place of grounding, a place where I feel most at home and closest to God.
When I was a tween, I remember planting myself in the sand with a journal and writing poetry for hours. The water would ebb and flow, crash and calm before me. And I would get caught up in its rhythm. The words and phrases and feelings tumbled out of me onto the page like a riptide.
Psalm 19:1 tells us the heavens declare the glory of God, but I believe the ocean is part of that same symphony too. Somehow I always get lost in the swirl of colors, the dance of the deep navy swell with the swirling turquoise waters before the ocean lifts her head to kiss the azure sky and melt back into the arms of the sapphire blue horizon.
God meets us in the nuanced glory of the water and waves.
The ocean speaks of God’s awesome power. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us: “This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name” (Jeremiah 31:35 NIV). This prophecy reminds us that God is the one who controls Creation. He can stir up the waters and harness tsunamis because He created it all in the first place.
Years ago, I went body surfing in Costa Rica. There on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world I grew a healthy reverence for the ocean. One solitary wave picked me up and spit me out so hard on the shore that it was a wonder I could even walk afterwards. That experience always comes back to me when I venture into the ocean now. The water is powerful and unpredictable.
We are to have this same healthy fear and respect for God. He is at once the Masterful Creator, our Loving Father, the Ultimate Judge, and our Caring Shepherd.
I can’t help but think about that story in the New Testament when Jesus was taking a nap in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. When a wild storm rears its ugly head on the water, the disciples wake him trembling with fear.
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:26 NLT). Jesus demonstrates his power over nature right after he heals several people.
I remember going to the ocean not long after my husband Ericlee died. While my young daughters built sand castles, I watched the waves for hours. The rushing water flowing in and out brought me surprising comfort. God welcomed my salty tears, my questions, and my fears as I burrowed my toes in the sand and wondered what my future would hold.
Back on the shore in Cambria for my 45th birthday, I marveled at the ways God has met me through the years at the ocean and how my dreams have unfolded. My daughters, who are now 10, 13, and 16, napped and read books with me. They are ocean girls too – at home in the salty air and dancing in the waves.
My husband Shawn and I just celebrated our 6th anniversary in January. He understands I am drawn to the water and how it reconnects my soul to God. In many ways, I’m living the life I dreamed of 20 years ago, but the white water I had to navigate to get here was nothing like I imagined.
I’m deeply grateful for the ways God calls me to remember these moments and experience His presence every time I return to the ocean. God speaks in whispers, wind, and waves.
Friend, do you have a special place or a part of nature that helps you connect with God? Is it the sunset, the mountains, or perhaps the garden that draws you back to Him? Please share in the comments.
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*This article was originally published at www.Incourage.me
Em Lifford says
I am part of the team at Eternal Wall of answered prayer in the Uk and we are looking to gather stories of answered prayers into the database. Eternal Wall is a Christian monument that will be built. out of a million bricks each representing an answer to prayer. You can find out more at http://www.eternalwall.org.uk Who would i need to contact please about permission to gather these stories of hope into the database. Many Thanks
You can email me at dorina at dorinagilmore.com