Sit Quietly at the Ocean


God reveals Himself in Scripture by displaying His attributes.  Many of these – like omnipresence or omnipotence – are simply incomprehensible to our finite minds.  Other attributes might be easier to explain, but in the realities of daily life, they are equally difficult to comprehend.  Take faithfulness and immutability (unchanging-ness) for example.

For us, all things change: our bodies, our daily chores, our life goals and aspirations.  The concept of One who never changes and who remains unwaveringly faithful contradicts our way of thinking and our life experience.

If we turn our attention to the created world, however, we can discover manifestations of God’s attributes in physical form.  God reveals truth about His character through the world He called into being.  The colors of the floral array point to His creative diversity; earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes show us his power.

And should we want to get a picture of His faithfulness and immutability, we need only go to the ocean.  Covering over two-thirds of the earth’s surface, the oceans of the world vividly demonstrate the character of the consistent One who created the seas.  With daily and unchanging regularity, the surf pounds the shoreline, repositioning sand and smoothing the rocky coasts.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, unstopped and unstoppable, the tides rise and subside.

Henry Beston, whose meditations along the Cape Cod coastline of Massachusetts appear in his book The Outermost House, found the regularity and faithfulness of the ocean to be a source of peace: “Whatever comes to pass in our human world,” he wrote, “there is no shadow of us cast upon the rising of the sun, no pause in the flowing of the winds, or halt in the long rhythms of the breakers hastening ashore.”  He goes on to write that “in that ceaseless travail of wind and sand and ocean, the world one sees is still the world unharassed of man, a place of the instancy and eternity of creation.”

The ocean rises and subsides.  Waves repeatedly tumble down on sand and stone and coral.  The shoreline shifts, but the relentless ocean keeps approaching and retreating, pounding and withdrawing.

To the observant spirit, the oceans direct our attention to the unchanging nature of our God.  They remind us of the One who never changes in His love or mercy towards us.  They remind us of the power of the One who is eternal and in control of it all.  The hymn-writer, like Beston, found the ocean to be spirit-calming: “Be still my soul,” wrote Katherina von Schlegel, “the wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”