This is the word that came to mind as I stood out on the rocks at the edge of the ocean.
I have always loved going to the beach, but particularly ocean beaches. There is something innately attractive in the raw power of nature. Spending the weekend in an amazing house where all the windows looked straight out at the ocean in the middle of winter holds its own attractions – being cosy and warm (with the fire going), watching rain rush across the bay chased by bands of sunshine and the accompanying parade of rainbows is soothing to the soul and refreshing.
However, standing at the edge of the ocean on one of our long walks, with the pounding of the huge waves upon the rocks, I felt a little intimidated. You hear stories of people standing that little bit too close when a freak wave comes up and they are claimed by the powerful force of the ocean.
As I stood there, I felt God saying that this is His creation. Think about that for a moment. Dwell on it.
God created this powerful, relentless, cleansing, refreshing overwhelming force that is the ocean.
When we create something from our own imagination, it generally reflects something of ourselves; how we think; who we are. So it is with God. His creation, as we reflect on it, as we dwell on it, tells us much about Him.
The ocean often speaks of His power and might, but
the power and might of the ocean is dwarfed by His power and might.
His power and might become inconceivable to me at this point. A bit like Job, when God tells Him all the things He created – who are you to question Me? We too are dwarfed by comparison, even with all our self-importance and belief in the significance of what we do or don’t do.
But in the midst of this reflection comes another thought, a reminder. God’s power is not about Him being a megalomaniac; it is not about control, coercion, or even competition.
His power is in His love.
The waves of the ocean this weekend have been relentless – even as one breaks, the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one just keep coming. We cannot think to hold them back or even influence them one iota. God’s love and the power of His love is even more sure. Whether we acknowledge it, are able to accept it, or even want it, His love toward us is relentless. What we do with it is up to us.
For some of us, we like to sit up in the house on the hill. We can watch from there, but the roar of the waves is heavily muted by the glass and the impact of the ocean is almost negligible to us, other than the enjoyment of watching it ebb and flow and the beauty of its raw power. But we don’t want it to change us or cause us any discomfort, so we stay where it is safe and comfortable.
For others, perhaps we like to get more up close and personal and a brisk walk along the beach is more our scene. We can hear and feel the pounding of the surf, smell the salt and the seaweed, connect with the impact the ocean has had on the environment, bringing beautiful gifts of shells and soft sand for us to enjoy the texture and colours. We can explore at the edges, rugged up against the chill and being careful not to get our feet wet.
Today I was reminded of my own tentativeness towards God’s raw power. Part of me was ready to dive in for a swim in that beautiful ocean, even though the water was only an icy 15 degrees or so and the wind chill was fierce. The idea of stripping off and feeling the refreshing, cleansing, invigorating power first hand was somehow very attractive. Standing on that rock watching the waves pound and their spray rise metres into the air, though, I felt that little finger of fear as well. If I fell, if I was washed in, would I too be pounded into the rocks? Would I be hurt, damaged, broken?
I think that we all have times when we hold back from God because we sense His power and the fear rises up that we may lose something of ourselves that we value or want to hold onto (like our dignity, or control!), or worse still, that we might feel pain and even find ourselves broken.
Looking back over the past couple of decades, there are a number of times where I see that I was in that powerful ocean, being taken places I had no control over, even feeling quite pounded and at a number of times, completely broken. While I can’t say that they were great times, there is a point at which I am glad I went through them. There is a point where I found that pushing into and past the pain brought me to a new place, a place where I have been remade, renewed, refreshed. And while I may have felt I lost my dignity at times, it has still been worth it.*
Even as I write, I am reminded of giving birth. My daughter was born after a long labour, in the end with the assistance of forceps. At the point of birth, there were around 10 other people in the room, all watching what was going on - talk about losing your dignity! However, all that fades into nothing with the new life that was birthed through that process. It is the same with us as we go through the process of letting go of our control and allowing the relentless power and force of God’s love overwhelm us again. What is birthed through those times is invaluable.
In ministry, we often work with people in the process of letting go of stuff that has been their protection and helped them feel in control. Moving through the process of forgiveness and release to the other side can be really scary and painful. There is no guarantee when you are in that place that it will be better on the other side. As much as I know it will and experience with so many others has shown this to be true for them also, I can’t prove it to you. You have to experience it for yourself.
Are you ready to stop and allow God’s relentless love overtake and overwhelm you?
*If you are interested to know more of my journey through this, why not check out my book, "Handing Back Control".