The ocean is really big and filled with stuff. It moves in waves, currents, and tides. Waves can be little laps of water on a sandy shore or tsunamis that swallow cities. Currents can be invisible, but carry objects thousands of miles. Tides rise and fall and there is nothing that can stop them. Furthermore, there are creatures in the ocean that are either massive in size, countless in number, or dangerous in nature. The power of the ocean is unstoppable, uncontrollable and unpredictable.
At the same time, the ocean sustains us with food. It regulates air quality, weather patterns, the recycling of water. Even for people in Minnesota, where I grew up, the ocean is an essential part of life and is unavoidable. We cannot not engage the ocean We cannot survive in its absence. It is essential to all life.
The ocean gives life. The ocean takes life. We are certain that we need the ocean as we would all die without it, but at the same time, the ocean itself is uncertain in how it will treat us. We need it, but we cannot trust it. We live dependent on it, but we cannot put our faith in its care for us.
We must engage the ocean while having faith in something else.
Sometimes the ocean is fun and we para sail over it. High above the waves and currents and tides, there is quiet and calm, and we gently hover over the waters, seeing almost everything up so high. Although somewhat precarious being so high, we para sail in peace.
There are times of faith that feel like this. Confident and peace-filled. We see everything and it all makes sense. There is no sense that much is wrong in the world and we feel the joy of being above it all. These are good times of faith. We feel strong and mostly in control of things. Yes, we know that we could fall, but we don't fall.
But we don't always para sail. In fact, it is something we hardly ever do. Mostly we float on the ocean. Some people have nice yachts, but most people can't afford huge boats like that. We have our little boats. They float, but they are moved by waves and wind, by current and tide. Little boats on the ocean prevent us from having to tread water, but also shake when the ocean flinches.
There are times when our faith feels like being in a small boat in the huge ocean. It is a faith that keeps us afloat, but in such a way that we feel everything. Waves may splash over the side of he boat and get us wet. We could be carried away by a current. We rise and fall with the tide. Our little boat does not stop the ocean; instead, it helps us live in the presence of the ocean. Faith is not something that protects us from the world as much as it helps us live in the world. Faith is not an escape plan, it is a means of engagement. It is not a way to be unaffected, but rather a way to process the affect.
And sometimes we have to go under. We must get completely submerged into the ocean. Sometimes the ocean just wants to swallow us for a while and we have to go under. Of course this cannot be done by holding one's breath, at least not for long. We need to take extreme measures and climb into a submarine. Inside a submarine, so little can be seen. There is so much unknown and unseen being submerged.
There are times when faith is the only thing keeping us going, keeping us alive. Without it we would be drowned immediately. The submarine faith is powerful, protective, and persistent, but at the same time requires a lot of resources. In fact, it requires everything we've got in order to breathe. one small breach in the hull and there is absolute crisis. It must be strong. It must not fail.
Faith is dynamic and responsive to an ocean that is massively powerful and filled with creatures. Faith is going to look and feel differently depending on the situation. A strong faith is not deciding which situation to be in or what it feels like in that situation. A strong faith is one that addresses the situation, even if it feels like it is precarious. The strength of one's faith cannot be measured by the behavior of the ocean, but by the response of of the person.
Nurturing one's faith is making sure there are no tears in the para sail, leaks in the boat or breaches in the hull of the submarine.