I've just finished reading an essay entitled "The Sea Within" by Peter Kreeft, linked from the The BigPulpit In this essay, Kreeft attempts to unravel the mystery of the sea and what it is that draws us to it both physically and spiritually. Though never really coming to a solid understanding of the draw the sea has on man, he does ask thought provoking questions that I believe most of us may have had while standing on the shore of the sea, mesmerized by its constant motion and vastness.
God has provided us with three things in His creation that to me gives us a glimpse into his never ending majesty and His providential presence among us. The universe, the mountains and the sea are three things that have been ever present to man in his short history and they have always captured his imagination. To modern man, the advent of science may have diminished the mystery of God's creation to a certain level, but it has never been able to completely eliminate it because this mysteriousness goes much deeper than the physical world that science deals with in attempting to explain its workings.
Today we know more than our ancient ancestors about the ways of the universe with its galaxies, planetary systems, and the Big Bang, or how the mountains of the earth are formed through plate tectonics and volcanic action, or how the tides of the sea came to be and the importance of the oceans on our climate. Science has questioned creation and has provided some answers. But when I look up at the night sky, or a mountain with its peak covered in clouds or the constant waves of the sea, the questions that science asks are not necessarily the same questions my soul and spirit asks. To be honest, I don't believe my spirit even asks questions that science has tried to answer but rather remains still and absorbs what it sees..
When I look at the night sky I know space objects are orbiting because science has explained some of that, but what I "see" is the never ending immensity of the universe that in turn acknowledges the One outside this space and time who created it all. It is mind boggling and no attempt to capture this sight within my understanding is successful, so I do what I am best capable of doing; to be awed by it all without understanding. No attempt by science can minimize what I see to pure physics, because I am more than a product of the physical. God saw to that. I look at the universe and I see myself surrounded by the majesty of God without even leaving this life. That in itself is awesome.
When I look up at a mountain, I see an immense object whose peak rises
so high that at times it is covered by a cloud, however, my spirit
doesn't stop at the cloud, but tries to pierce that cloud in search of what is above it knowing there is
more to see than just a peak. Anyone who has stood on the summit of a mountain and has looked across the landscape below knows how insignificant all seems to be from our vantage point. Houses, roads and even people are simply pin points from where we stand. We stand above strife, war, anger that we know continues at the base but we are detached from it temporarily. It gives us a sense of peace, a peace and joy we desire always. At times I even feel I am in control of everything below me and I do not want to descend back to the depths that awaits my return. I suppose I can say I have understood a bit of what it is to be God as I stand on a mountain peak, but not a god that manipulates its greatest creation as a puppet on a string.
This god, the God for whom my spirit and soul was created, left His lofty mountain and descended to become part of this cacophony of a life we had made for ourselves. From this mountain I've been given a sense of the love God has for all of us when he came down to suffer with us, to reveal Himself to us and to raise us back up to the mountain peak in order to live with Him. At the summit of this mountain, I have been given a surer knowledge that God is not a weak God but one who's strength is beyond our comprehension. A God who willingly gives his life for his creation despite their sinfulness as Christ did is not a weak God or man. It is some of this strength that I discovered in myself as I held my firstborn for the first time. I would die for this child in my arms. Not for what this child had done, but for who he was, mine. I would still do it with no question.
To me, the ocean is probably the greatest of the three things I have mentioned. From the shoreline I cannot see the end of it, only the horizon that seems to meet it. I can see the waves coming in as the tide rises, but I do not see where each wave originates. Unlike the universe and the mountains, the oceans are here on our level so it makes it more real to me. In my youth, I remember going to the ocean with my buddies to watch the girls on the beach. However, even in those days when my hormones raged, I would have been satisfied just walking along the shore enjoying the ocean had my friends suggested it. That is how enticing the ocean was to me and still is.
If you had asked me several years ago what it was about the sea that so attracts me, I could not have given you one particular answer. As humbled as I am by this body of water and the huge waves that constantly roll in, I feel a sense of security. I feel its consistency of motion and it comforts me. The ocean exposes my physical limitations in relation to her, as she herself demonstrates that she has no limits and can devour what she wills. In my love for the ocean I still have a fear of her in the sense of respecting her and her power. It is not a fear of trembling for my life unless I foolishly defy her and place myself in harms way. I have come to view the ocean and its waves as an exhibition of God's Truth in my years. It is in this view that I have finally arrived at a possible answer to the question of why I am drawn to her.
We were created in Love and Truth. We have an innate desire to know the Truth no matter where it leads us. We all want to know the Truth and expect it and demand it of others. Even liars expect the truth from others though they themselves seek to deceive through their own lies. No where in our history has a liar ever been honored or admired for being a liar, but even this world admires the honest man who always tells the truth and can be counted on. The ocean entices me simply because its constancy reminds me of God's Truth and my desire and search for it.
My visits to the ocean speaks to me of God's Truth as it washes over me each day. I expect to see its waves every time I visit her and I am not disappointed. In the same way I am taught that the Church is the foundation and pillar of Truth and I expect and find it within her walls. When I step into a shallow tidal pool left behind by the last high tide I feel its warmth, just as I do when I step into Truth that was left with the Church. As with the ocean exposing my physical limitations, the Truth gives me guidelines to life in God within the limits of my creation, yet at the same time it sets me free.
I never tire of visiting the ocean and I suspect no one really does for its draw is indeed powerful as it speaks of the Truth. We may lie, defy the Truth or try to avoid it as we dance around the waves so as not to be touched by them, but we are still drawn to it. That is our dilemma. We may dislike the Truth, but we want it. We need it. We are drawn to it despite ourselves. We can either let its waves gently wash our feet and set us back on the narrow path, or let it come crashing down on us, eroding and destroying all the lies we have set up and built our lives on. To me, the ocean is the visible representation of God's Truth working within each of us, over and over again, never stopping.