The Sea

Do you remember the first painting you ever saw of a big body of water? And do you remember your first glimpse of the sea? Each one of these memories shaped an impression of something bigger and more powerful than ourselves - the one who created the sea.

For those of us who were raised in church and Sunday school, we were impacted by the picture of Jesus walking on the sea and beckoning Peter to join him. Peter in fact did and then his fear caused him to sink. I remember it scared me a lot to think about trusting and then sinking. But it did not sink in that there was a connector of faith between the two acts…..the stepping and the sinking.

The power of God vested in Jesus impressed me when He said, “Peace be still” because He could calm the seas! Now that was real power.

Jonah and his seafaring journey has made its way into my lexicon of the sea as well. The only way the other passengers on the boat were saved was because they followed Jonah’s command and threw him overboard.

Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome. Amazing.

Judy, Brent, Bethany and I were standing on the shore of the Pacific on the Oregon Coast. We’d finally learned that going to the shore in Oregon was not the same as arriving at the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan with swimsuit, pail, and shovel. No, the Oregon Coast is much more formidable.

As we stood about 60 feet back from the boiling coast line, a huge wave emerged surrounding a 40-foot limbless tree, bare roots and all. We watched mesmerized as the tree was thrown from the wave and started to roll toward us. Having a 40-foot tree, 5 feet in diameter, hurtling towards you is a scary sight.

We scrambled backward, Judy hauling Bethany and I dragging Brent. We retreated about another 25 feet and stopped to see what would happen. The tree stopped its roll about 10 feet from us. We slumped to the sand and I made the astounding observation, “We could have been killed." So true.

Brent thought it was exciting. Bethany thought it was scary. Judy thought we were crazy for standing so close. And I was relieved.

So here Judy and I are on another sea, 5000 miles from the Oregon Coast. The Atlantic. The captain told us today that it was the second largest sea, about 1/3 the size of the Pacific, which impressed me.

A picture of the Atlantic today can replace 1,000 words. With no good camera, I guess 1,000 words will have to do. Why bother? Just like those images conjured up by the stories of Jesus, Jonah, and Paul, the sea I’m looking at out my stateroom window is almost as impactful.

Yesterday we sailed over the spot where the Titanic sank. Our son Brent is a Titanic aficionado. We have been to about 20 Titanic exhibits and Brent has virtually every book written about it. Bethany even made a special trip with him to Missouri to see the latest tribute to the great sinking. We get the story of the Titanic in all its detail.

This morning I went to the ship's library to do a little research on the Cunard liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Quite amazing stories as both of them were troop ships in WWII. As a matter of fact, my dad was on the Queen Mary as one of those troops. They each carried over 10,000 troops at a time from the US to Europe and back.

After WWII, they were decommissioned and re-fitted as passenger liners.

Dad came back to the US from Germany and France in 1945. The war ended in the spring. It is now just over two years later, September of 1947, and he once again boards Queen Elizabeth, this time going from New York to Southampton, England. The only thing different is that this time, he had his wife Grace and 7-year-old son Bruce along with him.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect that I’m the only person on board who traveled on this ship only once before and the time difference was 70 years. As I said to Ezra and Mary, our dinner mates, “I make this journey every 70 years, whether I need to or not.”

Enough about the history. Now about the sea. There was a strange vibe on the ship this morning. The seas from New York had been relatively calm with 2-3 foot swells being the norm. Today is different. As I look out the window right now, the fog has moved in. Before the fog, I saw the swells of yesterday growing into the waves of today.

Wondering about the height of the waves I turned to channel 23 where all the details are clearly displayed. 20-25 foot waves are what it said. Now as the fog is clearing I can see that they are right! They roll and rise only to sink again before another rise. One amazing fact about this ship, however, is that I can hardly feel the difference between the movement of yesterday and the waves of today.

The Captain just came on over the loudspeaker to give his daily briefing. In addition to confirming our location and the wave height, he added that there were wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour, the water temperature is 14 degrees centigrade and the air temperature is 57 degrees. I’m going to stand on the deck for a few minutes so I can describe what I am seeing.

Gray, roiling turbulent water with whitecaps crowning the surf-able waves. It seems as if they are breaking in multiple directions although I know we are heading northeast at 22 knots. Strangely there are occasional blue patches of water that show up amongst the gray. I have no idea what causes that and must ask the captain. He seems to know what he is doing.

The sea in this state is fascinating. As I’ve walked around the ship from the Commodore Lounge on the 11th level up front (forward to those who demand correct maritime vernacular) to our cabin veranda mid-ship on floor 5, to the art gallery on level 2 aft (that means in the back) there are people sitting and standing mesmerized by the sea. Some are taking pictures, one woman was praying, some are excited and some reflective. The sea strikes different people in different ways.

Including the crew, there are over 3500 people on this ship. A potpourri of people. Large, small, men, women, children and grandparents, experienced traveler and quaking novices, they all are subject to the same dynamics. They all have choices about how they respond to the sea.

Isn’t that true of the large and small issues of life?

We all have joys, fears, and choices to make. I’m so pleased that I’m in an intimate relationship with the creator of the seas. As many others have observed, the God who made the seas is indeed great. The beautiful thing is that He loves me and He loves you. He does have a plan for your life and He does protect and empower you so you can carry it out.

I thought a little reflection about how the sea might be the encouragement and connection with God you need for today. I know it is true for me. We’ll get back to leadership issues and how to navigate His world. For now, just be comforted by the one who controls the sea in all of its might and variety.

Stay with us on Life’s journey. Always remember, we are to be “Faithful for a lifetime.”

Bruce