Facing the Waves

Thursday we learned about my mom’s treatment options. Saturday I attended a funeral for a former colleague. Then another gun violence story in my news feed. Then another friend’s friend’s diagnosis. Then France.

One time at the ocean I wanted to get beyond the breaking waves to where the water rolls, deep and even. The waves swelled and broke, swelled and broke, swelled and broke. I dove under. I dove through. I dove over. The tide kicked and spun my body into broken shells polished to fine sand and I stood up to gasp only to be pummeled again. It went on like this for hours.

I knew that if I could just push through the current and the tide there would be quiet waters; I’d floated there before, the crashing waves distant, chaos behind me, blue sky above, clear water below. I knew I could simply float, held between the oxygen above and the oxygen below.

I feel like we’ve been here for months. Just when I think I’ve recovered from the last wave of sadness, more news arrives by text or phone or friend or Facebook and I’m down again. It’s exhausting.

This is our world, though, one wave of grief after another, beating its fists against the shore, untimely, unpredictably, a slap in the face, gut punch, tripping over an uneven step, exhausting, exhausting, exhausting.

I am 33. I’m learning that part of being an adult is this: facing the continuous wall of waves because the peace and ease on the other side is worth the fight. The beach is easier, but the battle together and the way the water holds me up is better.

In the grip of the tide, there are only one or two or maybe three relevant truths: the waves are worth fighting. I am not alone. There are buoys nearby anchored in love.

I cling to buoys.

That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” – Mark 4:35-41

For advent this year, to help buoy my spirit through a difficult season and remember the ever-present and all-powerful love of God, I’m planning on writing about what it means to me to be “with God.” The other day I was talking with my parents about the power of prayer and desire for healing, physically and spiritually, and I shared with them how I believe the power of prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit is especially miraculous for the peace that passes all understanding, how God promises to be with us even in our valleys of death, and it is in that most terrifying place of weakness that we discover strength, hope, peace, courage, and love, and it is that miracle I expect my God to deliver, daily, repeatedly, because however much we might all hate it we will all die, one day, we will be facing these waves for the rest of our lives. We can choose to watch from a distance or choose to enter into the battle together. There are times I have to just rest on the shore. I can’t go into the dark waters with every single person fighting every hard battle. That’s what humanity should be for–walking into the waves with each other. Sharing buoys.

So let me share my buoys with you this advent.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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