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THE OCEANS OF LIFE

December 18th, 2008

 

Recently another one of those pesky things we sometimes call ‘challenges’ came knocking at my door.  Challenges seem to have a way of sneaking into my life, tempting me to become troubled and let go of my faith.  Even more compelling is the temptation to take matters into my own hands, relying on my own feeble human efforts to save myself.  After having been tripped up way too many times, I have settled it in my heart that in the midst of trials, I will continue to press in and hold on.  I am determined that I will not fall into the sin of fear or the foolishness of implementing worldly schemes.  My heart’s desire is to stand squarely on the foundational Rock of my faith. 

 

Lying awake later that night, I envisioned myself in the middle of an ocean, and I penned the following parable:

 

Drifting along in the ocean waves, wrapped up in my protective wetsuit, I enjoy the peace of a mostly calm sea – I just love basking in the warm sun, my body buoyant in the salt water.  I watch in wonder as the ocean waves swell and recede all around me, while beautiful sea creatures swim by.   I bob along, thinking that this moment in time is so representative of the daily routine of life itself.   The ever-moving waves are like life’s little ups and downs, carrying me along as I go about my day.  Life is good indeed!  (However, you know how life will change in the blink of an eye, often just about the time you lean back and relax.)

 

Suddenly the soft ocean breezes become stiff winds.  The waves grow stronger, tossing me around a little more than I would prefer.  My peace gives way to uncertainty.  In fact, I am becoming quite unsettled with the rising and swirling of the water.  I am having some trouble keeping my nose high enough to avoid the swells, and I can feel a slight bit of panic creeping into my soul.  Instinctively, I reach out and grab a nose plug and a life jacket, which immediately make me feel more secure.  Ah, now I am mostly comfortable in my situation, even though my surroundings are for the most part uncontrollable.  I smugly declare that once again, life is good indeed!   (However, you know that temporary band-aids are short lived.)

 

All too soon white caps begin forming, waves are crashing all around me, and I am once again frightened in my surroundings.  Although the nose plug and life preserver are greatly appreciated, they simply are not going to provide adequate protection for the situation in which I find myself.  Still desiring to control my own course, I reach out for a small life raft and climb in.  My rowing and navigation skills will allow me to guide the raft through the waves, still holding onto the illusion that I am setting my own course.  I take a deep breath and proclaim that life continues to be good indeed!  (However, you know that a bigger band-aid will still fail under increasing pressure.)

 

As I lean back in my raft, and I roll with the bouncing and swirling of the waves, I begin to feel a chill in the air as the gathering clouds darken.  All too quickly the clouds empty themselves of their payload.  I am drenched and shivering, my muscles and bones ache from the rowing, and water rapidly invades my life raft.  Peace gives way to fear and pain.  Terror threatens to well up in me, and I must admit that I need a much larger boat in order to stay on course.  Survival suddenly becomes an issue as I acknowledge my need for greater security.  In desperation, I row to a larger vessel that can carry me safely through the raging storm and the treacherous waters.  Safely aboard a large and luxurious yacht, I am now truly able to chart my own course, navigating the waters with ease.  Storm clouds gather, but I have invested well and I am the master of my own destiny.  I stretch my arms out in celebration because life is good indeed!  (How often do I buy in to the illusion that I am self-sufficient, simply because my most recent idea appears to be working?)

 

I settle into a cushioned deck chair, more than ready to enjoy the rest, a good book, and a bubbly refreshment.  Moments later, I find myself once again in danger. Who could have anticipated that this storm would develop into a hurricane?  Scanning the horizon, the illusion of safety gives way to the reality of the situation in which I find myself.  Could I really be in danger, even in this ocean-ready vessel?  My answer comes quickly as a huge wave laps over the railing of the deck, claiming everything in its path.  Hopelessness engulfs me as I scurry to a place of safety, no longer interested in holding onto any confidence in my own strength.  Sliding across the deck, I surrender and begin to pray, grabbing hold of the Rock that cannot be shaken.  The moment I cry out for mercy and protection, I find myself immersed in the peace of God that passes all human understanding.  I rest in His arms, and thank Him for His remarkable method of teaching me life-saving lessons.  The roaring of the ocean will forever remind me that God is my refuge in the storm.  Once again, life is good indeed!

 

Later, as I studied the lessons of the parable, the Lord showed me that the wetsuit represented how I came into the world, protected but devoid of props.  So long as the oceans of life were calm, I had the luxury of bobbing in the water without a care in the world, in need of nothing.  But as the waves became stronger, I suddenly needed protection from harm.  The nose plug and life preserver represented self-help aids we often seek for answers to life’s little problems.  The life raft represented the gaining of knowledge and education to plan and set my own course in life.  The yacht represented the search for power and wealth to insulate myself from the larger storms of life.  All of these things temporarily gave me a false sense of safety and security in my own strength.   I was in danger of becoming my own god. 

 

Until I am completely humbled, with all props removed from my grasp, I have no need for a savior.  So long as I can make it on my own, living out my self-made and self-centered plans, I will do just that.  However, it was never God’s plan for me to live my life outside of His care and protection.  The challenges and storms in my life remind me of my desperate need for a Savior.  Over and over, the Lord reminds me that He is my Rock, and my strength is found only in Him.  So, when I learn that valuable lesson, and when I run to Him every time challenges come knocking at my door, life is truly good indeed!

 

 

Proverbs 3:5-7a

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes;

 

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.

 

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 

II Corinthians 4:7-8

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.

 

Psalm 89:9

You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.

 

Psalm 107:29

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

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