Monday, September 04, 2006

The Pulse of the Deep

Back to the sea again. It seems that the ocean is one of the few places I can go to in order to find peace and refreshment, and to reconnect with the mystery and majesty of God. We took our annual end-of-the-liturgical-year outing at a little mission church right on the ocean. (Our liturgical year begins September 1.)

I found a place I hadn’t yet been to, down below the plateau from which all the tourists take their photos while not coming too close to the edge. But if you really want to get near the action, you’ve got to go over the edge! I made my way down narrow sandy paths till I reached the rugged, sea-grooved rock formations that spread out before the incoming tide. I discovered a spot in a little cove at sat down to watch the fun. A school (a group, a bunch?) of seals was frolicking in the distance, rhythmically diving and surfacing, and moving along at quite a clip. Closer to my little spot, I watched with interest and delight as the waves tried to find a way to get in. Sometimes they would run right into each other, one going forward, the other sideways, then flinging geysers of foam everywhere. I took some pictures, even though I realized that the experience couldn’t really be captured: the movement, the translucent/reflective quality of the colors of the sea, the feel of the swelling waves, how they somehow made me, a tired, deflated balloon, feel like a new rush of air was rapidly filling me.

Later, I moved to a place even closer to the water. Here I saw another seal only about 10 yards away, but he swiftly disappeared under the seafoam green. This is where I took the pulse of the deep. The wind was a brisk 20mph or so, and I stood for a while like Old Glory flapping in the breeze. I was almost level with the water, and from that perspective the undulations of the sea were absolutely magnificent: sequined swells, creamy crests, and the sea’s own “surround-sound” to fill my senses. (To the tourists at their safe distance, all that could be seen was what looked like a relatively calm surface.) The deep was rich with life—not just that which swam within it, but it seemed itself to be alive, fully alive, vibrant, pulsating, irrepressible in its relentless, exhilarated surging.

I thought to myself, God made all this, and so it must reflect something of Himself. In the little rectory in which we were staying, they have some old pictures on the walls—which I mostly like, certainly better than today’s chintzy church banners with their puffy peace-and-joy platitudes. But there’s something a little too static and limiting about some of the religious art of past eras. I just don’t think the Father is an old graybeard, the Son a younger and slightly effeminate replica, and the Holy Spirit a bird! I don’t know how many will go along with this, but I think God is something like the ocean: full of awesome majesty and brilliant glory, undulating with life and power, engulfing with reckless and joyful abandon anyone who dares to come near it! It never ceases its throbbing, energetic, wild (yet mysteriously disciplined) dance of life, rising, cresting, crashing, splashing, filling every empty and open space—with life! I came upon a little tide pool and found stunning purple anemones, and startled crabs scurrying to a safer level, out of sight of the big ogre with the camera. Brown birds with long, bright-red beaks were squealing and searching for a seafood lunch. Then there are those funny little plants growing right out of the rocks that look like miniature, rubbery palm trees, happily swaying with every briny blast.

As if to confirm my reflections on the ocean-like divine embrace, suddenly the sea rose to a level slightly higher than that at which I was sitting, laughing heartily at my unsuccessful attempt to roll out of its way. Time for Old Glory to get up and flap in the breeze again and try to dry off! But I wouldn’t think of trading my salt-watery vantage point for that of the high and dry tourists who went away without the kiss of God. The Lord may accept those who honor Him from afar, but only to those who venture to get really close does He reveal his breathtaking mysteries, his sparkling glory, his endless surgings of life. So you get soaked in the process. Anyone who has come that close will tell you it’s worth it! Even his thunderous wave-crashes are paradoxically peace-giving to those who draw near.

So come down from the safe plateaus and navigate the rugged shoreline, with the rubber-palms and anemones and salty splashings. Breathe in the exhilarating air, the Breath of God, which is wind upon the primordial waters. Come close, close enough to get wet. Let Him break down all your defenses and even have a little laugh at your expense—you will find that you are laughing, too, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Let the pulse of the deep, the pulse of God, be the pulse of your soul. You are made in his image and, like the sea at high tide, He is coming to reclaim you. Go out to meet Him!