I am afraid of the sea.
Like my phobia of heights, this fear is at odds with the rest of me. For I am both a tree-climber (yes, at 37, still) and a beach lover. It is not the working my way up a rough trunk, finding toe-holds in knots and branches, but the seeing the ground’s distance beneath my feet that makes my stomach drop. Similarly, the ocean feels like home to me until that moment when a swell lifts my heels from the sandy bottom.
The open sea I fear most of all: the thought of only water on the horizon for miles, the deep gray underneath containing so many hidden things.
Have you seen The Perfect Storm? All Is Lost? Open Water? The Reef? These did not so much cause my fear, but gave name to something I already carried.
Whether you share my open-sea fears or not, few people wish to experience a storm at sea. We fear the enormous swells, the powerful roar of wind, and the gray nothing that removes visibility. When you are in a storm, you are at its mercy.
We all fear death to some degree (perhaps a better way to say this is that we cling to our lives), but are not often in situations where we must fight for lives or run for our lives. We are, however, daily in situations where we fear the loss of control and wrestle to keep it.
Like a ship’s captain, we lean into the wheel, pressing all our weight against it. We radio for help. We take down the sails or batten the hatches. The reality is that we are never in control. Not really. We simply build up that illusion and surround ourselves with things that maintain it.
In my metaphor this often means staying at the dock. We don’t let out to open sea because that is where all may be lost. That is where we are reminded how small we are against the great expanse of sky and sea, meeting together in that distant, elusive horizon.
We do not take risks often because we fear loss of control. We fear the open sea and the storms that may come.
And, oh, is it not terrifying to unmoor and pull in the anchor? Is it not a thing of bravery to set sail? Do we not desire to turn back when billowing clouds gather and the thunder’s rumble echoes in our chest?
I am always grateful after the storm. Not only for that beautiful calm that follows, but for the process of the storm itself and for what I learn by passing through. I am most thankful for where the storm carries me, which is so far off my own plotted course.
I do not mean to make light of these storms or dismiss their difficulty. Sometimes we lose precious cargo. Sometimes we lose loved ones.
We lost my dear mother-in-law to cancer in December in such a storm. I would rather have her back than have what God has given in her absence. Yet he has given sweet, sweet gifts along the way. He has brought me to a surprising place that I know for certain I would not be in otherwise. Though how I LONG to be able to call and tell her about it, about the work He has done through that storm. She would rejoice with me.
As I write this I know there are yet so many ways I remain tethered to the dock. I polish the ship’s bell and give her a fresh coat of paint and think, What a lovely boat! So sea-worthy!
Perhaps you find this fear of open water in your life. Perhaps you have the anchor down or have added a few extra anchors, just to be safe.
Do you know, friends, that we are no safer at the dock? We are no more in control when the anchor is down. We are always at His mercy.
Though not easy and often terrifying, his mercy is a beautiful thing. Hoist the anchor. Plot a course of adventure. And when (not if) the storm comes, know that being at His mercy is a beautiful thing. Cling with all your might not to the hull, but to the one who slept through the storm. The one who, upon waking, spoke the storm into calm.
You are at His mercy.