Thursday, 25 September 2014

The thunder of great waters

I did a little musing as I sat on a railing watching the sea do its thing back in the middle of summer when there was time for sitting on railings and watching the sea.

The tide was in, and there was a strong breeze that gave the waves white tops and blew spray at me from time to time. The sun was in and out from behind fluffy clouds and there was nobody else about.

Dear God,

The sea is like you.

It is eternal. Always there, never stopping, never still. It never rests, never sleeps. Shifting, multi-faceted, unpredictable, wild and untameable. Breathtakingly beautiful in all its moods, whatever the weather. That beauty is a complex mixture of light and shade, a million colours; shimmering, sparkling.

It engages all the senses - the blue, the green, the sunlight and reflected sky, the sound of crashing, thundering - and the soft and reassuring sound of surf on shingle.

I sit with my eyes closed and feel cool spray on my face; I swam and was embraced by its silky coolness, lifted off my feet by the swell.

I taste salt on my lips and inhale the fragrance that you only find at the seaside: freshness, brine, the smell of open space and freedom. I find that I breathe more deeply at the seaside in moments like this, luxuriating in solitude; just me and the vastness of you.

There is another sense that the sea touches, for me; the thing inside me that longs for you; the thing that is more than imagination, that comes from the deepest part of me.

My soul reaches for you, because you seem more tangible to me at the seaside.

I watch the ocean and see my God.

The sea is relentless and powerful. You cannot keep it out, you cannot keep it in. It will go where it will. The sea demonstrated its power when the tidal surges engulfed our coast a few months ago; I have seen the destruction left behind. The strongest man-made structures - concrete, iron bars as thick as my wrist, bent and broken like matchsticks, and discarded with the next wave. Flooding, overcoming defences, washing away things that we cling to.

The fury of the sea in a storm; deafening and intimidating. Restless, ruthless, threatening...and yet. that same sea reflecting a cloudless blue sky, soothing and welcoming, splashing on sand and shells, gently caressing my daughters' feet as they play at its edges.

Glory and majesty - the sea reflects the sunrise and the sunset, the beginning and the end, and will still be there, churning, shifting, waiting for the next day. It was made on the second day and will be there on the last. What are we, in comparison?
"Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?"   Job 38:16
The sea shows us our smallness, our frailness. It allows us to interact with it in a small way; it gives up some of its treasures and allows us to form a relationship with it but it demands respect. It gives life and sustains life and can take it away in a moment. We try to harness it, to subdue it for our own ends, but it will only allow us so far. We hover at its edges, gazing awe-struck into its depths, and it is pleased to show us some of its wonders, but we are never in control.

It has hidden depths that we cannot imagine.

Underwater mountain ranges that we have never seen. We don't know how deep it is - it is unfathomable. We cannot draw maps or chart the seabed. We are too small, too weak; our most impressive technology falls short of something so primeval.

We see the surface, and the things it permits us to explore, but it leaves us in no doubt that we are quickly out of our depth. There are things impenetrable, places we can't go, experiences we'll never have, whole ecosystems that we know nothing about, creatures never seen, photographs that will never be taken.

A mystery. Pre-historic, vast, sheltering, nurturing, secretive.

We are so small. We make mistakes; whole aeroplanes are swallowed without a trace in the depths. We are reminded of our fragility, and it's power.

Endless contrasts. I held in my hand the tiniest of crabs from a rock pool, a starfish. The seas are home to countless microorganisms too small for us to see - and then huge and powerful creatures like whales and sharks, seals and fish too large to land in a fishing boat. The delicate and the vast. Floating, mystical jellyfish, shoals of translucent fish, and predators with row upon row of lethal teeth. Things that we eat, things that would eat us. All life is here, and death, too.

"There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number, living things both large and small." Psalm 104:25
Dangerous, yet healing. The sea helps to heal wounds, sterile and soothing. Life-giving, life threatening. Hidden currents, lurking dangers play alongside soft surf and exhilarating swell. It supports us, keeping our boats afloat and our bodies buoyant.  Full of joy and fun, beauty and possibility, yet we misjudge it at our peril.
"You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them." Psalm 89:9
Only Jesus had authority over the sea. There has only ever been one man who was unafraid, who spoke to the waves and they obeyed him.

I sit here and lift the camera to my eye and realise that the sea cannot be captured.

No wonder that throughout history we have been fascinated by it. We have tried to copy it, to halt it, to pin it down on canvas or film, to recreate it to take away for those of us who live inland, but we cannot, for no sooner have we frozen a moment in time, than that moment is gone and the sea is completely different.

It is only now. It was, it will be, but it is always the present. No two waves are alike. They each hit the seawall differently, throw different fountains of spray. There is no pattern, no predictability. It does its own thing, regardless of time, of me, of everyone.

There is so much to see. It whispers, shouts - booms an insistent invitation to tiptoe at the edges, come a little deeper, discover something new, dive in, explore, immerse yourself.  Be brave, get used to the coolness, the movement; enjoy the ride. Know who you are, and who the sea is; don't forget. Don't take it for granted, have respect, but come and enjoy.

Be washed clean. Be lifted off your feet.

Inspiration is here. Beauty is here. Refreshment, restoration, healing, strength are to be found here.

There is no barrier that you cannot break down,
There is no space you can't flood,
No door can keep you out,
No defences you can't breach.
"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty." Psalm 93:4
You are here.


  1. Beautiful and spiritually perceptive, as always. Thank you for sharing your insights, dear one. x

  2. The sea is a great place to meditate, to think deep thoughts - or simply to be. I could identify very closely with your words here. And some marvelous pictures as well - did you take them?

    1. Thanks, Paul - yes, I definitely breathe more deeply by the sea. Living in Derbyshire has its disadvantages that way!
      Yes, they're my photos. I never get bored of trying to capture it.
      Thank you for reading and leaving a lovely comment.


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