I love the ocean. I love its vast, glittering expanse; the knowing that I stand on the edge of a continent, on the brink of a wilderness covered by the pulling, surging tide.
I love the sharp, salty scent as it flows in and back, the soft hiss of waves leaving, depleted after their rush to conquer the shore. As children we raced the watery fingers over the sand or stood quiet as they swept over our feet, leaving us unbalanced on the hard knobs left beneath us in the undertow.
I live in lake country now, where the water is docile and to venture in doesn’t require judging the power of the tidal forces threatening to pull you forever from shore. I love the gentle lake life, but sometimes I miss the wildness, the danger of a force that can steal my breath with its thunder. The lakes around me have been thoroughly mapped and explored. We know the depth, the underwater ridges, the beaver lodges and loon nests. But where the lake invites us, the ocean dares us. It is a power never fully quieted; to engage it always brings risk.
For those of us who take our Christian faith seriously, it feels like an ocean of change is sweeping over us, undermining the ground we stand on, leaving us uncomfortably balancing on the hard knobs of truths that look naive at best, and bigoted at worst, surrounded as we are by the powerful cultural tide.
All too frequently we are seen as an anachronism – and a hateful one, at that. Worse, we often bring on those accusations ourselves.
We have watched some of our number be swept out to sea in their desire to fit in and follow the madding crowd as it gobbles up ever more land in its quest to claim the high ground – a place that moves daily, if not hourly.
It is tempting to shift our weight a little in an attempt to be more comfortable in the dominant culture. To build our house there, on the soft sands of acceptance. Since childhood we have all struggled to fit in with the group holding power, whether that be the popular girls at the lunch table or the consensus at the board meeting. But when the storm comes, we will regret not building our lives on something more solid.
Popularity makes a poor life preserver.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:24-27
Sometimes we go the other direction, retreating behind the affirming walls of our echo chambers as we peer with disgust on those clamoring outside. Instead of speaking the truth in love, we stack up peripheral issues like cordwood, lighting them with the kindling of our disdain. Then we warm ourselves by the fires of our self-righteousness.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.James 3:9-10
Those who live by the sea are familiar with the rip tide. This is a strong current that drags you away and is impossible to escape. Your only hope for rescue lies in the lifeguard who is watching, and is strong enough to battle the waves to save you.
We have been rescued by One who is watching; One who gave His own life to save us from the deadly pull of the world. Now it is up to us to reach out and help others struggling in the churning waves.
2022 presents us with a challenge. Will we capitulate to the forces of evil around us? Give in to those same forces within us? Or will we walk bravely into the surf to offer a hand to those sinking in the deep? The only way to disarm the powers of darkness is to love those caught in their undertow. It is far easier to criticize than to rescue. Which will it be for you this year? For me?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – JesusMatthew 5:43-45