A few weeks ago I got to visit my sister, who lives near the ocean in New Jersey. After dinner one evening, we all packed up and went to the beach, her husband and three sons to play in the water and she and I to just relax on the shore. The sky was a beautiful mix of blue and white, and a gentle breeze blew through my hair as we sat. Without even realizing it, I drifted back to another day at the beach years ago………
I’m standing in the ocean, water up to my knees. Neil is calling me to come out farther, where he is only covered to his ankles. I am not a water person, but he is. The sun is beating bright; people are splashing and laughing all around me. I watch a line of pelicans fly overhead, and I’m suddenly brave. As I walk out toward Neil, the water gets oddly shallow and soon I find myself laughing with him on the sandbar. It gets hot out there is the sun beats down, without a cloud in sight.
“Let’s go out further,” he says. I hold his hand as we walk deeper, cold water splashing my bare belly, and soon up to my chest. “Relax,” he says, “just bounce up and let the waves roll under you.” I feel the sun and the salty spray off the water. The waves break on the sandbar behind us, but where we are, it’s quiet and peaceful and we float together. He loves the water, and he is excited I’ve come this far.
“Come on,” he says, “we’ll jump into the waves.” We back up to a spot where the waves are just starting to roll, well before they crash on the sandbar. “Don’t let it hit you or knock you down,” he says. “Just dive right into it!” I talk myself out of running back to shore, and instead hold tightly to his hand. When the next big wave comes we jump into it together. Somehow I get turned around, and water shoots up my nose, and my bathing suit comes loose. I am tumbling, tossing, and as he pulls me out, he is laughing. “Wasn’t that fun?” It wasn’t exactly fun, but it wasn’t awful either, and he is so excited, I agree to try again. This time I don’t lose my bearings or my bathing suit, and we come out together on the other side of the wave. Laughing like little kids, we jump again and again until we are tired and ready to go in.
“Now comes the best part,” he says. He shows me how to ride in on the waves, relaxed, on my back, eyes closed, the water doing all the work. He reaches the shore before me, smiling and sated with salt and water, and is resting on the sand when I get there. As I join him, he gives me a big old wet salty kiss, and says, “Thank you. That’s was the most fun I’ve had in the ocean in a long time.”
As my brain came back to the present moment, my sister was sitting quietly on the beach beside me, and I thought about the lessons that long ago day taught me.
Things aren’t always as bad as they seem: look for the sandbar. I realized that lately I’d been a little too sad to consider that things would get better. In concentrating on all the bad stuff that was going on, I was missing all the good stuff – like these rare moments with my sister.
Get your bearings and hold tight till you do, then jump into whatever life sends at you. Don’t let it knock you down, but don’t try to run away either – it will catch you. When it does, relax, be carried, enjoy peace. It occurred to me that I was unconsciously fighting moving ahead, afraid to jump into my new life, somehow imagining that if I didn’t accept it things could stay the same. Of course things would never be the same, no matter how hard I fought to hold on to the life I had lost. If I couldn’t learn to live this new life, I would never be happy.
Finally, remember that even when you can’t see it, there’s a hand in the water to help you. Not only do I have friends and family, who love me and care for me, but even when they are not around I am never alone. God is always with me. He will pull me up out of the water just like Neil did that long ago day:
When you pass through the water, I will be with you;
in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk
through fire, you shall not be burned; and the flames
shall not consume you.( Isaiah 43:2)
Just then my sister looked at me and smiled. Maybe she knew I was back from my little trip to the past, or maybe she had been in her own thoughts and just now came back too. Either way, we sat and laughed and talked and enjoyed the evening, as we watched her family play in the waves, and I was grateful and peaceful being right where I was.