Little City Magazine
An online magazine that caters to creative young women of faith. Published in March 2019.
My new year’s resolution last year was to see the ocean more. I’d grown up looking at it, staring at it while I sat wiggling my toes in the sand and dreading that it was going to follow me around and find me everywhere for the next few days. Seeing the ocean—standing on the beach—was a common thing in my California childhood. And because of that, I didn’t appreciate it. But, once I left the state for college—more specifically, once my junior year rolled around—the ocean started meaning a whole lot more to me. I couldn’t necessarily tell you why; I think different places and spaces and practices become different things to us in different seasons.
All I know is that the ocean, the same ocean I scoffed at in grade school, was a big deal to me at the end of 2017—so much so that I made it my goal to lay my eyes upon it many more times in 2018.
The second my shoulders were square and facing the horizon, something in me shifted and settled into “rest” mode. I watched the waves in multiple countries and states and cities last year—by myself, with family, and with friends. I’d watch and listen and write and read. Sometimes, I’d even sing. And at the end of the day or hour or 15-minute window of daylight, I looked away from the ocean feeling more peace, assurance, and fear (the good kind) every time.
The predictability of the waves must not be mistaken for mundane. Like the God I worship, the ocean is wrought with power. It is both graceful and full of force—soothing and vast. Not conquerable or fully understood or able to be tamed.
The shore became my place for prayer. When my spirits were up, life was luscious and I was charged full of joy, I headed to the beach. And, when the opposite was true, when I felt pressed down flat and drained of perspective, well, I headed to the beach then, too.
In the midst of all the craziness that is life on earth, it isn’t uncommon for me to find myself strung out, over-stimulated, or so happy I don’t know where to land. In those moments, when my emotions hit one hundred—in any direction—I often feel like there is nothing I can do but pray.
I think that’s why the beach was such a refuge. It’s kind of stripped down bare. I can stand in front of the water just behind where the waves creep up and know that the landscape has looked the exact same for centuries. While development and change and newness never cease in cities and suburban areas, the sand and the waves at the beach resume an identical pattern every morning. I can stare at the horizon, almost like it is God’s face, and speak out loud to Him while all the pent-up angst is at my back.
Setting aside time to remove ourselves from the humdrum of everyday life and get with Jesus in prayer is vital. Whether it is at the beach or at the kitchen table, we need that time to sustain us spiritually.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus regularly disappeared to spend time in solitude with His Father. His disciples didn’t get it. The crowds always tried to close in. And still, Jesus retreated. He was persistent and consistent. He understood that amidst all the noise he needed to be quiet—to listen to God and also to speak plainly with God without any sort of worldly facade.
Like I said, so often I feel like I can’t do anything but pray. In response to the world and to my limited ability to navigate it, no other action feels right or full enough. When I’m speaking with my Father, I know I’m heard and valued and prioritized. I know I am taken care of. I know I can lay down my burdens or gush about His goodness, and it is not going out into an abyss but into the hands of the one who has ultimate control—and who has my best in mind.
I know I have no power. But I know He has it all. So what a relief it is to have veil-torn-in-two access to a gracious and personal and powerful God who can help me shoulder the load of this sweet, yet chronically bent, life.
The time I’ve spent in prayer has challenged me, transformed me, and given me great clarity. Much of it happened while I stood in sand. But truly it can happen anywhere. I will forever be trying to get away, to step aside so I can have enough room to lean in—so I can drink up the silence and open my hands to the answers and promises and truth God gives.
Knock, He says, and the door will be opened to you. Seek, and you will find (Matt. 7:7).