If grace is an ocean . . .
. . . we’re all sinking.
This line from the song “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan rang through my mind on repeat one sunny day this past September. I was headed out to Cannon Beach with a friend, so that could have been why. But grace was really rolling around in my head.
Grace is a hard concept to grasp—unmerited favor. I’m not sure that narrows it down or makes it any more tangible. Metaphors are my play dough. They aren’t the thing I’m examining, but they let me model it and get my hands around it. I can squish it and push it and test it out. Through that process I learn what I wouldn’t have understood by cold academic reflection alone. (And it smells awesome. But I think that’s where it starts to break down.)
I grew up twenty minutes from the Atlantic and now I’m two hours from the Pacific. I couldn’t live any farther away from the ocean. I will drive two hours in the middle of the night to walk on the beach for thirty minutes and then drive back. The ocean is my not-so-still water that restores my soul.
The ocean is familiar. But it also commands respect. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther than my knees into the ocean without a parent present. I was, and still am, allergic to cold. Which means, when my skin gets cold, I break out in hives. I really just get itchy until I warm up again. But when I was young the doctor cautioned my parents and they were worried about worse life threatening reactions. So I dearly love the ocean, but it is also deeply ingrained in me to respect it. Similar to how one should respect a caged tiger.
In studying Hebrew I learned that the Hebrew mindset was fearful of the ocean. The ocean was representative of pure chaos. Untamable depths that could swallow you whole.
The ocean is not tame. It is raw power. It is beautiful. And dangerous. At just waist deep a current is able to grab your feet out from under you and drag you out to sea.
This day in September my soul was confused and needed to be fed. I craved the tangible. Prophetic action that spoke what you couldn’t hear. I ran out into the ocean, intending to dive under and run back. But suddenly being in waist deep, frigid Pacific water, the cold stole my breath. I stood there, the waves pounding against my chest. They said, “This is grace.” I looked as far out as I could see, and the vastness weighed on me. And I knew I could only see three miles out! How very far! How very deep! I can spend a third of my childhood at the edge of this water. I can be drawn out to it on dark nights of the soul. But I can never comprehend the vast magnitude, the sheer power, the myriad upon myriad of diverse organisms drawing their life from this ocean. This is grace.
I dove under and back up. And the sun beat down. And the waves pushed and tugged. And the cold numbed. And I struggled to breathe. And I raised my hands. And I surrendered. This is grace. I can’t understand it. I can only surrender.