When the ocean tosses you around like a rag doll

Water_size480I went surfing on the weekend. I am by no means a surfer, but I thought it would be fun to learn.

It’s probably not the best time to start. Australia is being plunged into winter and the winds that blow in off Antarctica make for a cold and rough swell, but a couple of friends and I braved the chill in our wetsuits and had a good day.

One thing that’s struck me about being an amateur surfer is how much you have to fight the ocean. Sure it’s fun when you catch a wave, but the rest of the time is spent paddling out, or, in my case, being tossed around and rolled under the water like a rag doll.

That’s a bit how life can feel sometimes; being tossed like a rag doll in the ocean; battered by the waves. No sooner have I gasped a breath of air, than I am down, under the water again. Why? For what purpose?

I asked God about it, and he reminded me of this: That I cannot see myself, but He can. And He knows that finally, when I have been removed from the water, I will have been refined into a pearl far more brilliant than anything that could have been attained on the shore.

And therein lies the peace: it is worth it, and suddenly the waves hold less fury, because at the end of the day, they’re working for me.

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What it Feels Like to Jump off a Cliff

Thanks to Luke George who took this photo a couple of years ago at our cliff jumping spot.

Thanks to Luke George who took this photo a couple of years ago at our cliff jumping spot.

If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you follow?

Actually, yes I would.

One of my favourite summer activities is cliff jumping.  There’s a spot about 2 hours away, where the deep ocean meets the cliffs to form chiseled inlets.

There are various heights from which you can jump. Three meters; seven; fifteen. I once saw someone jump from about twenty meters and was afraid I’d see their body splat onto the rocks below.

I say I love cliff jumping, but to be honest, everything in me hates taking the leap. As I stand on the edge, every nerve ending tingles, frantically bombarding my brain with the instinctive message that jumping is a bad idea.

I hate the moment when I almost jump but don’t, and then, even more, when I launch myself out and have that split second realization that it’s too late to go back.

I hate the feeling of falling; legs kicking at the air; arms tensing in an attempt to defy gravity.

I hate the way the water hurts if you hit it on a bad angle, like a mammoth slap.

In fact, there is only one thing I really like about cliff jumping. It’s when the water catches you and holds you momentarily in its belly, and you rise and break the surface and feel ecstatic triumph. When you know, with a sense of pride, that all your friends jumped off a cliff, and you were brave enough to follow.

Fields and Ocean

Fields and Ocean

I’ve always loved open, secluded fields that overlook the ocean. It’s the convergence of earth and sea, the perfect place to experience both the wildness and beauty of nature. Unfortunately, when you live in the city, they’re quite hard to access, especially if you want to avoid jumping the fence of an unsuspecting farmer (though let’s be honest, a little bit of fence-jumping doesn’t go astray). This spot, however, is one that I found on a recent Easter trip, and has now made it into my ‘Top 5 favourite places in South Australia.’(Or at least it would have, if such a list existed.)
It often amazes me, as I look at the ocean, that such a huge body of water meets the land, overlapping on such a narrow strip of sand, and yet we can trust it to come no further. We build our houses only meters from the sea, which is incomprehensibly vast and deep, with full confidence that it will not overflow. It reminds me of God’s rhetorical question to Job: ‘…who shut in the sea with doors…and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?