Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Breaking Waves

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Sometimes I lose the plot. I feel like I'm hopelessly lost underwater, as though I can't figure out which way is up. I know that there's a song somewhere inside of me but I just can't remember what it is. I want my life to be the poetry of the Poet himself, I want to sing- to be a melody intertwined with The Melody Himself. But sometimes I'm hopelessly lost, broken, spent. I fall in love with the ones and things that take life and love away from me. I need The Song Himself to sing through me. I need The Word Himself to speak into me. - Jon Foreman

I remember with startling clarity my first few hours in the ocean. I tell the story often, which has helped to cement it in my memory.

While in California, my brother, sister, and I camped on the beach. My uncle gave us all boogie boards to try doing some boarding on a beach near our campsite. He gave us some verbal instructions and then sent us off.

The beach had very coarse sand and a lot of rocks. As we waded into the waves, we felt their strength. The water shoved at us one moment and then pulled, threatening to bring us to our knees. The rhythm seemed confusing, senseless, unstable. But we moved in to face it.

We quickly got separated, and eventually my brother just gave up altogether. There was no sandbar to stand on to brace for waves. The waves were incredibly rough. One moment I would be standing firm, the water chest high, and the next I couldn't seem to find the ground anywhere as the water became impossibly deep.

I soon learned what people mean when they talk about waves breaking. The deep, blue-green swells of water would form a white-crested wave and then start crumbling in on themselves. That was breaking. I found out that the worst possible place to be was right in front of a wave when it broke, because then you got caught in its whirl-wind frenzy. Water swept over you, tumbled you around, and sky and water and sand became nothing but a salty blur. I would come up coughing sea water, the salt burning my lips and my eyes. It was worst if I let go of my board. Because my wrist was strapped to it, when I let go and a wave hit, the wave would catch the board and I would be dragged along behind, underwater. Over and over again I was pounded against sand and rocks.

So I began to swim out deep, away from the rocks. Even moving was a fight. Waves broke over me again and again, battering my exhausted lungs, shoving me back. Eventually I got out far from the shore, past the point where most waves broke. Now I could just drift over the tops of the unbroken waves, the pulses of water carrying me. I had no idea how far below the ground was. I could see my sister sitting on the shore, far away. I lay on the board, just breathing. The sky melted down to the hazy blue horizon.

I turned around, swimming to try to ride the waves again. Again I faced the terrible fury, let them batter me, and at moments feared that I'd never reach the shore. Eventually I felt sand underneath me again. I crawled onto the beach. Blood streaked my arms and my legs, and bruises were forming. I sat beside my sister, and we watched the reckless waves pounding the beach. We talked a little, but not much. We were too tired.

And then I said I was going out to face the waves again. We stood up and walked back to the water.

I had this odd idea in my head that it meant something, that I was facing the waves. I wasn't backing down, even though I had not yet rode a single wave. I would keep trying. The saltwater stung my cuts, washing away the blood. I threw myself into the waves again.

Half an hour later, I was exhausted and even more battered. I still had not caught any waves. I spent the night listening to the sea, standing alone by the rocks with Skillet playing on my iPod. Darkened waves caught the moonlight, strands of silver dancing in the foam. I could hear the crash and roar of the waves even above my music. The next day we went to another beach. I went out yet again. I kept trying. The waves were gentler here, the sun was brighter, and the sand was softer. My uncle helped us this time, and finally each of us caught a few waves. I felt what it was to ride the top of a wave, foam licking my arms, flying along towards the sand as the sky rushed by. And it was exhilarating.

But oddly, I don't remember that as well. What I remember is the hours spent being battered by the violent waves, just to eventually fly for a total of maybe ten seconds.

Later my sister and I went out to the rough beach again, without our boards. We went to the water and let it carry us, let it dance with us. We didn't fight it this time. Even when the waves broke over us, we didn't resist. Though it meant being underwater, this time I couldn't be dragged along by a board.

When I said goodbye to the ocean, I did so with a sense of sadness and also respect. Its calm and its rage were somehow beautiful, as were the cloudy mornings when it looked gray-green and weeping, and the moonlit nights where the reflections on the waves looked like millions of stars netted in the dark water.

I had scars on my arms and legs from that first afternoon for weeks afterwards, and I looked at them and remembered the experience. It's come to mind strongly over the past few weeks as waves of a different sort come in, breaking over me, threatening to pull me under.

See, we are often told stories about people persevering and being rewarded. What we are told less about is stories of people who persevere with no reward, with no hope of getting to the other side. We don't know what to do with those stories. They don't seem right.

I fought the waves for a few hours. And I did gain a few seconds of flying at the end. Were those moments of actually riding the waves worth it? No. They weren't. But the fight in itself was.

This may sound crazy, and it may not make sense. But what I remember, what is most important to me in retrospect, is that I kept going. I was bleeding and bruised and exhausted and choking on bitter salt water, and I kept going. I took a few moments out, to breathe and to feel the calm. But I always went back to the waves again and took another beating. And eventually I learned to rest in the waves, to dance with them. I never really got good at riding waves. But I learned to love them. I fought until I found peace.

I'm not going to go too far with this metaphor. But I am going to suggest that sometimes life isn't so much about being above the waves. It's about learning how to rest even when they're breaking on top of you. And we may get bloody, and we may get bruised, but there is a strange beauty simply in the process of holding on.

And fortunately, we have the benefit of knowing that the ground is always there, even when we can't feel it pressing against us. Even when the waves pull us away, turn us around until we lose our sense of direction, the sand will always be waiting for us to touch down again. God's like that. He just doesn't leave. He is the one certainty in the midst of the waves, and He's not about to fall out from under us.

May I always remember that.

Every thing I have I count as loss, everything I have is stripped away. Before I started building, I counted up these costs: there's nothing left for you to take away. Hello hurricane, you're not enough. Hello hurricane, you can't silence my love. - Switchfoot

- Elraen -

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Lethie said...

First of all let me say this is beautifully written. Very nice discriptions and a wonderful message
And the story is so inspirational. Thank you so much for sharing and always pushing through. Im praying for you <3

Liz said...

this blog is just...amazing. i was speechless after reading it, i had to walk around & come back, gather my thoughts so to speak. i know you've been struggling and to see this blog come of it, i know you still have hope and i'm thankful for that. for the record, your writing is one of the most descriptive and entrancing i've ever read. i love reading your blogs. remember the stars & never surrender ♥

Blire Daeriel said...

Forgive me for saying this brings to mind a Miley Cyrus song... but it also speaks to me in a powerful way. Especially after some recent events.

Thank you for once again sharing your heart here. It's always a privilege and a blessing to read what you have to say. *hugs tight* Love you, sis.

Jessica said...

This post was beautiful like all your other ones are. :) *hugs* -- Angel