I love beaches. There was a five year period in which I did not see the sea–my three years reading English in Oxford, and two years at Ohio State getting a Masters in Creative Writing.
And then I saw a lot of the sea, when we lived in Stanford, Palo Alto, in Northern California while Roy was doing a postdoc in Computer Science. It was the first time I had been on a Pacific Beach.
Roy keeps reminding me of how I ran in joy on the beach, saying, “See, Roysie,” as I scooped up Pacific Ocean treasures, sea urchins, scallop shells, sand dollars, and knelt beside tidal pools with sea anemones, sea stars, sea turbans, barnacles, and hermit crabs.
I collected handfuls of beautiful pebbles, purple, pink, green, variegated, veined, and was incredulous when Roy said that they would turn dull and uninteresting once they dried.
I collected them anyway. And, unbelievably, the pebbles that shone rose, amethyst, and sea-green, indeed turned lifeless and uninviting.
Away from their natural habitat, away from the sea bathing them twice a day, sea pebbles are dull and unremarkable.
When the Holy Spirit bathes our heart, we come to life in our native colour and glory. Our sluggish dull thinking comes to life.
What is seawater for our souls? Their natural habitat? What makes us feel as if we are flying, swimming, running, instead of limping along in the daily trudge and grind?
* * *
For me, honestly, God is the sea in which I am most at home. When I am in alignment with God, when I can sense his compass, when I sense his guidance for the next stretch of the road, feel under his secret service protection, I feel as if I’m flying. I am at peace.
I am more stressed when I am trying to choose my own path. When I have not sensed God’s finger pointing to the road I am to take, I vacillate between one course of action and another. I see the pros of one, decide to adopt it, then remember the negatives.
When I flip-flop like this, one thing’s for sure: I am not hearing God’s voice. I am relying on human intelligence under pressure, an imperfect instrument at best. My vacillation means I have not heard God, and so I need to stop and pray until I have.
So what makes my soul feel verdant, cleansed, washed, as if by the sea? The presence of the Holy Spirit does.
Scripture does; it has a purifying effect, which is why Paul in Ephesians talks of being cleansed by the washing of water by the word.
Doing things slowly, in touch with God’ rhythms, in step with God does.
Rest does, adequate sleep, long country walks, solitude, the sea.
But alignment with God, most of all.
How about you? What does it take for your spirit to feel moist and cleansed, glistening and beautiful?