He's never going to stop!

Relentless.

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".

Christianity: Powerless, Small and a Little too Sanitised

As we sat in our Good Friday service this morning, I found my eyes drawn to the wooden cross that is placed on the platform at Easter. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself wondering at its dimensions.It suddenly seemed small and a little too sanitised. I found myself wanting it to be made of heavy cross beams, rough cut and less regular, rather than two pieces of neat, clean 6 by 4.

Do we sanitise our faith?

It made me wonder: Do we sanitise our faith? Do we reduce it to meet our experience? We have been disappointed before, so we don’t want to expect too much. Yes, we are happy to hope for eternal life when we die, but we’re not looking for or anticipating much, here...now...today.

A verse that has been prominent in my thoughts the last week or so is from Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I have been reading Dutch Sheets' book “The Power of Hope”, where he discusses the results of living in a place where we feel as though hope has been deferred too long, too often, which include loss of faith and courage. We stop believing for big things, and the things that seem big in our lives grow bigger again, with a life of their own, becoming bigger than God Himself in our perception.

One of the songs we sang this morning is “The Power of the Cross”. At Easter, we celebrate that Jesus overcame the power of death, and yet, we struggle to believe that we, through Him, can overcome the power of our limitations, struggles and sin here and now. It is easier to live small and defeated lives, because, underneath, we believe the adage, “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed”.

But this was not what Jesus promised; this is not what He came for, and certainly not what He died for.

When Jesus said that He had come to bring life that we might have it to the fullest, when He said that He had come to give the blind sight, to make the lame walk, to set the captives free, this was far more than just physical (although that would blow most of us away). He came so that we could see the reality of what it means to be sons and daughters of the Most High God, that we could walk, leap and run without being weighed down by our experiences of the past, and that we could live the free and abundant life of knowing we are loved unconditionally, that there is nothing more we have to do.

I don't want a faith that lacks power, and I don't want it for those around me, either.

If we are serious about wanting to make a difference in this world, we cannot afford to continue to accept mediocre, wishy-washy, ‘expect little’ faith. If we are serious about wanting to make a difference in this world, it is time we get things back in proportion, back to the size they should be. 

If the cross (and I mean all that the cross signifies) is central to our faith, then we need to make it real and make it big in all its power and force and beautiful ugliness. It has to match with the reality that death was the last obstacle Jesus overcame to give us abundant life here and now. 

Are you prepared to come to that place where you get real, get down and dirty, and lay it all on the line with God? 

Because it is here, and only here that transformation begins and it is only from here that we connect with the power to transform the world.