We learn from the sea

Sunday, February 14, 2010

One can compare life with numerous states of being and temperaments. Regardless of its parts, the sum is still life. The same holds true for the sea. Despite what condition or appearance the sea exhibits, it is still the sea. Why can't either be held accountable to a single description?

Often the sea flows smoothly, content in its slumber. Fish frolic, surfers glide over the waves and people lounge on the beaches. What tranquility the sea can exude. Other times the same waters quickly switch from calm to turbulence, as if they are angry with all that's in their path. Waves leap and plunge with powerful thrusts back and forth.

Everyone seeks to run from its fury as it often captures and destroys everything in its path. Then for a while the sea feels itself to be the victor -- even though it's the monster. There's no stopping its warring demeanor during a hurricane, nor its beauty and tranquility when the sea is at rest. Yet in spite of the way it chooses to go or what exists within the waters, the sea is still, and will always be, the sea. Just as God is still God.

Recently I spoke with a young person, Jane, whose purse had been stolen. As is the case with most, the woman was distraught. All her credit cards and other irreplaceable personal items were taken. However, Jane took the incident in stride and tried to keep from worrying excessively. She proceeded with her routine and hoped that whoever took her possessions would return them or, at least, her personal information would remain safe. "I just want to forget it happened and get on with my life," she said.

As I listened, I understood. The same circumstance has happened to me. I thought about exactly what getting on with one's life meant. Wasn't that experience a sampling of life? Life is full of ups and downs, but it's all still a part of our connection to everyday existence. Living can be calm when things are going well, loved ones are content and healthy and all is seemingly safe in your world. We all have premeditated notions of what we want life to mean, but isn't life what we're presently doing -- performing, eating, feeling, loving or hating?

You struggle, cry, laugh, succeed, fail, become ill and experience deaths of many varieties. You're happy and joyful sometimes and exuberant and excited other times. Then this life you're living takes another direction. You see how vulnerable you become when whatever you've depended on to give you stability disappears.

The empty space inside you becomes exposed and raw, and your feelings that all is well change to those of fright. Your faith isn't as strong as you thought. Instead, you find you still have the capacity to feel lonely and depressed. Your faith in God wavers as your humanity becomes evident. It's still all part of life. With both the turbulence and the calm and the sad and the joyful it's still all part of the condition that always continues to be life. Like the sea that switches from calm to tumultuous, life remains a wonderful, yet ambiguous mystery.

If we remember the stormy sea eventually returns to tranquil waters time and again, we realize our life operates on the same principle. Insurmountable challenges are overcome and calm always returns. God keeps on being God.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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