C. S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory” wrote, “….infinite joy is offered us, [but we are] like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea….” And, when I read this recently, it got me thinking about my life with God….
There once was a little girl growing up in the big city. Surrounded by marble and concrete and tall buildings, she had little ability to imagine what was meant by the word, “sea.” She had heard that the “sea” is water that extends so far that no edges are in sight. The water goes all the way to the sky! The only water she knew was in the community swimming pool (which she could swim across in one breath if she kicked hard enough) and in the pond in the park (and she and her mom could walk easily from one side to the other to feed the ducks). Then, one day, she started seeing pictures of the “sea” everywhere—in the magazine in the doctor’s office, on the new billboard along the highway, on the postcard sent by her aunt on holiday. Her heart began to long to go and see for herself.
One day, her dad took their family on a drive. As they rode along, the tall buildings transitioned to two-story homes surrounded by trees. Soon, the trees were replaced by tall grass waving to her in the breeze. She rolled down her window and the air against her face felt cooler and smelled fresher. She noticed that the dirt on the roadside was no longer brown, but golden, like the sand on the playground at school. Were they going to see the “sea” today?! Her heart skipped a beat.
Dad parked the car and they all got out. There was a great big hill of sand and tall grass in front of them with a small path leading right up to the top. As the little girl followed her parents up, up, up, she felt her heart pounding hard and her smile could barely keep from becoming a giggle. She finally reached the top and couldn’t believe her eyes. The Sea! They were right, all those people who said you couldn’t see the edge. And, it was so much more beautiful than the pictures in the magazines! No one told her about the waves and, oh, how wonderful that sound was to her ears—like music! She danced with joy like she never had before—twirling, jumping, and running with her arms stretched out. How delightful!
When she slowed down, she noticed that there were many people by the Sea—some sitting on chairs, others laying on blankets and others walking near and far on the golden sand. There were even a few people wading in the water and one or two were swimming. There were houses along the sand, too. One could actually live by the Sea?! She buried her feet in the soft sand and imagined herself staying there forever!
Coming out of her reverie, she decided to join a little boy who was building a castle in the sand. He had a bucket of Sea water next to him that he would dip into and add to another bucket full of sand. He explained to her that the sand would be firmer this way and the castle could stand tall in the hot sun for a long time (at least until his mom called him for dinner). Shovel, shovel, pour. Shovel, shovel, pour. Then, turn the bucket carefully upside down, tap a time or two, and lift the bucket off. A beautiful tower! The boy suggested they build a moat and fill it with water from the Sea to keep the castle safe. Off she went, bright yellow bucket in hand to the waterline. She filled it in the surf and loved the feeling of the cool water and bubbly foam going back and forth over her feet and ankles. She hauled the full bucket back to the castle, not a little bit sloshing out as she made her way across the hot and uneven sand. Much water was needed as they built, which meant seemingly endless trips to the edge of the Sea to fill the bucket. She was so tired, but, no matter how many buckets of water she poured into the moat, it wouldn’t stay full! All the water kept seeping in as quickly as she could pour, leaving behind only tiny bubbles on the surface. She finally gave up and sat down in the sand with a humph! After she rested a bit, she returned to helping the little boy shovel sand into buckets to make towers. Soon the last of the water she had carried up from the sea was gone and the towers started to crumble. How frustrating!
She laid back in resignation, enjoying the feeling the hot sand against her back and shoulders. She watched the clouds change shape overhead and imagined animals and princesses floating by. She let her body relax into the sand and her skin soak up the soothing rays from the sun. She listened to the rhythm of the waves—crash, bubble, bubble, swoop, crash. It was such a beautiful, calming sound. It almost followed the ba-doom, ba-doom of her heart. Wait…. Did the sound change? It was almost lulling her to sleep a moment ago. Now, it seemed to beckon her— crash, bubble, bubble, swoop, crash. “Come, come, yes, come,” it seemed to say. She sat up and listened harder. She closed her eyes and listened even harder. Sure enough, “Come, come, yes, come,” was the rhythm now, calling to her. She looked over at the boy, but he didn’t seem to hear. He was working hard on the castle, trying to repair the towers that had crumbled. She stood up and slowly walked down to the waterline, mesmerized by the changed voice of the waves. She looked quickly around, wondering if she was the only one to hear the new, inviting rhythm. It didn’t really matter, though. She was sure of what the sea was whispering to her.
Just a few more steps and she reached the place she had stood in the surf while she was filling her bucket. The water was so cool and refreshing on her feet after walking on the hot sand. Back and forth, back and forth, but still inviting, “Come, come, yes, come.” She took a small step forward until her ankles were fully covered with sea water. Her feet sank deeper into the sand with each wave. Should she go any further? It didn’t really look safe. The waves were crashing down just ahead and water got darker and darker the further out toward the horizon she looked. Would she be able to touch the bottom? Was she a strong enough swimmer? Crash, bubble, bubble, swoop, crash. Come, come, yes, come. She was feeling quite warm and her muscles ached after hauling so many buckets full of water to the castle. And, the water was so refreshing on her feet. Wouldn’t it feel so good to let the sea cover her whole body? Maybe she could just walk out a little further just to see. Or maybe she could run and dive in… Come, come, yes, come swim….Ba-doom, ba-doom, her heart answered.
* * * * * *
I feel a lot like that little girl as I have journeyed with God. I have come away from the city and discovered the beauty of God. I have stood in the sand and delighted in His promises, His works, the sound of His voice and the demonstration of both His gentleness and power. I have tried to build castles with sand and buckets full of God carried back to the day-to-day of my life. And I have experienced the dryness and the crumbling. Like the little girl, I too, have stopped to listen to the waves and discovered that God was inviting me to come. I have made my way, in wonder, to the waterline. I have, not without hesitation, ventured out to wade in the surf. And, I have, on occasion dunked my head underwater and swam a little. It was gloriously refreshing and wonderful. Still, the waves invite me to come deeper.
God is inviting me into more. He is inviting me to swim in Him. I was not meant to be sustained by experiencing His presence and blessing in buckets full of time and using those experiences to fill up my daily life. I try to alleviate my dryness with another shovel-full of water, only to find it seeping and disappearing ever more quickly. All that remains are crumbling castles. I was meant to experience the fullness of God all the time, know His presence in the details of my daily life, not bring bits of who He is into what I have already established without Him. I was meant to swim.
I have come to the realization recently that my journey of deeper wading, and even some tentative swimming, in the ocean of God parallels my creative journey. The more I have delved into photography and writing, design and collage (among other things), the more I have experienced God. Colored pens and pencils, magazine scraps and mod podge have become tools that God uses to speak to teach me about Himself. Time taking and editing photos has become sacred space, wordless prayer. As I dance, my movements become worship. When I open my journal or sit at my computer to write, the words flowing out onto the page become God’s words to my heart. As I delve into the creative process, I am walking ever farther from the shore and into the Sea.
What’s the Sea like? What will it be like to swim in its depths? It is so vast it can seem frightening. What lurks beneath the surface? What do I do when my feet don’t touch the bottom and my toes can’t feel the sand anymore? Unknown. Vast. Mostly uncharted. Thrilling. Scary. Captivating. Beautiful. Mysterious. Beyond.
I wonder why I am often content just standing on the shore, taking in the incredible view of who God is. I see His beauty and worship, yet my feet remain planted on the sand. Why would I think that just touching my toes to the edge of the water is all there is? Why am I satisfied just getting my toes wet? Something keeps me from the water, from experiencing the fullness of God, but I am invited to swim!
In my teens, I used to keep a notebook of quotes I liked. This was one of my favorites:
“Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better, I’d have come running with a bucket.” –Nancy Spiegelberg
Maybe that’s why I am so hesitant to swim. I approach God expecting to receive a drop or a cupful of water for my thirsty soul. C. S. Lewis was right. My desires are too weak and I am far too easily pleased. I think the problem is solved when I replace my cup with a bucket. But God “split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep” (Psalm 78.15, ESV). Water in the desert as plentiful as the sea! A bucket is not anywhere near big enough to hold all that I need and infinitely too small to fit all God has to give! He is an Endless Ocean (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kzzL2ePC6U).
Time to throw out my bucket and grab my swimsuit! He is inviting me to dive deep into all that He is! God is inviting me (and you!) into more….