by Joanie Butman
Everyone has a place (or state of mind) where they feel closest to God - a place of peace and contentment. Some arrive there through prayer and meditation, others employ more tangible modes of transportation. In the summer I drive - certainly a more direct route than my feeble efforts at prayer and meditation recently. That's not to say that the four-hour journey to Massachusetts doesn't involve soul searching and long conversations with God. We cover a lot of ground during those rides.
As I've mentioned on more than one occasion, being by the ocean makes me feel close to God. I love the first whiff of ocean air when I arrive and the peacefulness of once again falling asleep and waking to the rhythmic sound of the waves. The vastness of the sea is a vivid reminder of my smallness and His greatness. Sitting on the shore with my feet buried in the warm, soft sand, one verse always comes to mind:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).
That truth is the basis of my "happy place" regardless of my geographic location.
The other aspect of the ocean that I find hypnotizing is the constancy of the waves, whether they are gentle, rolling ones or angry, crashing ones - especially when a storm is approaching. Surfers flock to the beach during rough surf because that's when the waves are the biggest. They know the best surfing occurs in stormy seas and have no reservations about diving into turbulent waters.
Spiritually, the same holds true yet no one embraces the storms of life with enthusiasm, nor are we eager to dive into painful situations. No one escapes being tossed around by the waves of life on occasion. Stormy waters test our faith. You may feel like you are drowning in fear, anxiety, hurt, discouragement, despair; but take heart. "God can use the storm to make you fearless, secure, and steadfast." He may not calm the storm, but He will calm you because the Lord is more concerned with changing our character than our circumstances.
It's only in hindsight that I recognize my best spiritual rides have always been during rough times. It was in my pain that I felt totally one with God, carried by His power to the safety of the shore. Furthermore, it's through that pain that compassion for the pain of others grew. Experiencing, learning, and being honest about my own pain allows me to be a safe haven for others to come for comfort, encouragement and support.
Maybe that's why much of my beach conversation this summer has revolved around pain and suffering. What can I tell you? The relaxed pace here leaves people eager for conversation. That's the beauty of summer. With no pressing obligations, you can enjoy the luxury of unencumbered time, which is when meaningful conversation unfolds. The issues vary wildly, but the bottom line is we all live, we all love, we all lose, we all suffer, we all grieve...it's part of the human condition. There is no greater connector than shared suffering. Pain respects no boundaries. I consider it an honor and a privilege when someone feels comfortable enough to choose to reveal their pain. It's such a vulnerable position, which is probably why so many of us choose to be silent sufferers - something I've never mastered obviously or I wouldn't have anything to blog about.
It doesn't matter what kind of wave you're caught in, God is waiting to provide the most thrilling ride of your life if you choose to reach for His hand. I read somewhere, "the storm is not where you face the enemy. The storm is where you meet your God." I couldn't agree more. God doesn't promise a life free from storms, but He does promise to be with us through them. For that reason, my happy place will always be by His side wherever and in whatever circumstance I find myself.