We are a lot like waves.
I sat at the edge of the half-natural jetty, a few feet from the rocky cliff. It was by no means vertiginous, for I was only seven or so boulder layers up from the crashing of the waves on the shore. I think what was more dizzying was the high-pitched alert of a couple blokes at the beginning of the rock who screamed out, “Dude! Fire ants!”
Oh, what a lovely welcome, beloved fire ants.
Despite their shrieks, the continual crashing of the waves captivated me tenfold. They were, ultimately, far dizzying to a naive human mind than any ant could ever be.
I noticed that, with all these distracting thoughts ricocheting in my head, the waves kept doing the same thing.
Ebb. Flow. Crash. Ebb. Flow. Converge. Crash.
We seem to do that… a lot. And I don’t particularly mean the crash part: In life we’re caught in an inescapable ebb and flow.
I tried to spot myself in the waves. “Which one am I?” Oh, that one… the one that underwent the wave merge from the larger neighboring waves. But I was also that colossal wave… only sometimes, and maybe not so large; maybe just more self-aggrandizing.
Each of the waves seemed to be direct kin of the great ocean behind them. Well, of course they were.
But some of the waves were clearly set apart from the others: nobler, stronger, fuller; more calloused, more encompassing, more intractable; less gentle, less coy, less agreeable.
Apart from the misfits, all the waves featured that familiar behavior we all know
and love: lack of change. They did the same thing over and over and over every day. That behavior reminded me of what Paul talked about in Romans 7 (yes, the New Testament on Tabernacler!), when he struggles internally about the warfare within him between law and grace–or rather, between flesh and spirit:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (vv. 24-25, NKJV)
Paul could tell that, despite all his efforts, he was a wretched man in need of saving, the same one who boasted of his conscience before God. More importantly, Paul saw that it was a daily struggle, as if there were never respite from the tedium of life and the weight of sin that tear our years away.
There is a deep struggle between the will to do good and the tendency to do evil; when we will to do good, but do evil which we will not to do (It’s a tongue twister, I know). In the same way, we struggle against the tendency in us to be conformed to patterns and rote living versus the capricious, adventurous life we think we want to live–like those Instagram blogs that taunt you with pictures of people upon mountain peaks and selfie sticks soaring an arm’s length over a breath-taking canyon.
So yes, waves.
Each of them is unique, made in the image of the ocean beneath them, of whom they are part. Also, all of them were the same. They would ebb, flow, and crash ad infinitum.
There was something else to the waves, though. They all had an undercurrent, an undertow, a riptide.
The waves beneath the waves, in a sense, were very much dissimilar. It’s as if the waves, a composite of different forms and breadths and strengths, had a driving force beneath each one that was a derivative of the ocean itself, not each wave. In other words, regardless of the waves’ appearance on the surface, they shared the same current beneath them.
(Okay, scientifically that’s not true, as a tsunami has a much stronger riptide than a beach wave over which moms can dandle their babies’ feet in the light surf. Just track with me!)
Each of the waves carried with it the potent force beneath them that pulled toward a destination, like a desire so deep within you that there is no power to hold you from being drawn to it. It’s a bit like love, but so much deeper.
It’s the human riptide in us that drives us to the shore, away from the mystery that is out there: whatever it is, the waves continue to drive us back to reality, though we long to become undone.
The shore doesn’t–yea, it never satisfies. The world never satisfies.
We are so inexorably shipwrecked on the shores–tossed to and fro in this maelstrom we call the human condition. But these waves are part of a mechanism, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped flowing to the shore, where technology abounds, people isolate, and we insulate.
What if we ebbed back into the source, back into the deep?
No more flowing; no more crashing. No more monotony. No more work or toil.
This is the yearning for Eden at its core–back to the ocean, the wellspring; back to the deep over which the Spirit of God hovered, for there the waves had no schedule.