Submerged. Gasping for Life.

The shore is my favorite place to be. I’ve often asked my wife, while sunning ourselves in the sand and surf, “Why do we live inland?” If we could we would move to the beach…tomorrow. But, that’s not where God has planted us. And as the saying goes, “bloom where you’re planted”. And so, we have.

A few weeks ago I was at a conference held, conveniently, at the Jersey shore. The day we arrived was brisk and chilly. The wind whipped across the sand and the harshness was repulsing. However, the second and third days were absolutely spectacular. The wind had retreated and the warm, windless weather set up residence for the remainder of the week. Being cooped up indoors listening to speakers or kibitzing with friends wasn’t my idea of a retreat, but it was the focus of the conference and I participated. But I was just itching to be outside, alone, with my thoughts.

I got a call from Scott, the guy I was rooming with, early Wednesday morning. “Pete, you’ve GOT to come down to the beach. It’s fantastic out here.” Scott’s voice and the scene from the window beckoned. I quickly dressed and made my way, being careful not to be spotted by anyone I knew lest I lessen my time watching the tide. Scott was perched on a large, black boulder among other rocks placed to degrade the erosion of the sand. We sat for a while watching the sun ascend from its nightly hiding. The sound of the waves and the warmth of the sun were so sacred we held long stretches of silence between the two of us as we basked in the glory of the morning on rocks, like lizards.

The surf pounds the rocks as vibrant moss lives in an atmosphere we cannot. Life is often hard and suffocating. But there's a promise of a new way to breathe while gasping for life. Long Branch, NJ. 

Scott had a thought as we watched the foamy water smash then recede from Irish-green rocks just yards from us. Even though the boulders were pounded by the relentless, incoming tide the green moss flourished and gleamed with life. Although violent at times, without the water the emerald green glow would be absent. Somewhere in that thought was a connection between our lives and the moss.

As humans we require a certain kind of atmosphere to live. We need water, but not too much. We need sun, but just the right amount. Air, in its proper mixture is required, too. If any of these or other atmospheric conditions change too much, we’re toast. However, other kinds of life require far more water, far less sun, far different kinds of atmospheres than we do. So, what exactly did I begin to learn from watching the water wash over the green, green moss?

In the Book of James it says,

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
— James 1:2-4

We are more than we presume. We are more than flesh and bone and blood. The Bible says that each and every one of us has a spirit. We have a body and a spirit but also a mind – emotions, thoughts and creativity. The Bible says we’re made in God’s image – that’s very complex! It also says that Jesus came to bring abundant life. But what, in all its fullness, does “abundant” mean? What I’m learning from the water and rocks, beckoned by the Spirit, as I continue to meditate on that visceral scene is this – when we feel like we’re drowning – when we’re gasping for life, when the atmosphere has changed (whether through a illness, loss, rejection, trials, hardships, etc.), God will use those moments to birth new life in us – if we allow Him. That new life will bring us to a point of maturity so that when the next wave comes crashing on us, our gasping will be far less than before. And not just less, but we’ll be able to extract life while being submerged.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
— Jesus in John 16:33

I learned a long time ago that God doesn’t waste pain – but we often do. (see blog: The Beauty of Pain ). My wife and I are in a season of life we’d rather not be experiencing. Yet, a very wise friend counseled me months ago to be acutely aware of God drawing near to us in this season. I believe that He did as I sat perched upon those rocks and He continues to tutor me along the way.

You may be going through a very difficult season. You may have found that the atmosphere of your life doesn't seem conducive to the "abundant life" you've been told about. You may be gasping for life! Perhaps things at work, home or internally just seem to be suffocating you. If you allow Jesus to draw close, in fact, if you draw close to Him, He promises to use this season to help you live more fully - in ways you aren't even aware exist. You'll gain through these trials a new way of breathing in the midst of crashing waves, even submerged by an ocean of pain, trials and heartache. Let's learn to breathe with Jesus, who was submerged far more deeply than us and came up victorious!

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
— Hebrews 10:22