Oceans challenge us to expand our perspective beyond ourselves, which leads us to wonder. Psalm 104:25 describes the ocean’s awe-inspiring expanse: “There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small.” The ocean, which has helped people throughout history navigate through journeys, also inspires us to consider how we’re navigating through our lives with our God of wonder's guidance.
Will you be visiting an ocean this summer? I have good memories of the wonder that my daughter Honor and I encountered on the Pacific Ocean, in California’s Channel Islands National Park. On the ferry to Santa Cruz Island, we encountered all sorts of ocean wildlife, including dolphins, seals, sea lions, and even a humpback whale. Then we explored some sea caves on Santa Cruz Island with a kayaking tour group. As we paddled our kayak by a large group of seagulls taking off and landing on the ocean’s surface, I locked eyes with some of the birds and noticed that they seemed to be watching us as intently as we were watching them. I wondered what they were thinking. The gulls were expert navigators. Did we look silly to them as we paddled through their habitat? After kayaking, we explored the land around the island, and were thrilled to see a type of creature that exists nowhere else on Earth except the Channel Islands: the diminutive island fox (we saw several, including a mother and kit together). All around the ocean environment – in the water, in the sky, and on land – God’s creatures were on the move.
Everyone and everything living in an ocean environment has learned to respect the ocean’s power when navigating. Sometimes the water is calm and visibility is clear, so the best way ahead is easy to find. At other times, waves crash wildly around and storms obscure the view, so it’s confusing trying to figure out which way is the best way to go. That’s true of the changing circumstances we go through every day, as well. When facing important decisions, sometimes the best choice is clear, but sometimes the options swirl around us in a stormy mess and we can’t figure out what to choose. Wonder reminds us that we can turn to God for guidance. When Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, his disciples were in awe. Matthew 8:27 tells us: “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’”.
So the next time you need to make a significant decision, let the ocean’s wonder remind you to seek God’s guidance. Pray about it, and then listen for insights that come to you. Be patient, waiting until you have clarity and peace before making your decision. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote in her beautiful book A Gift from the Sea: “Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”