I have been fortunate enough to have always lived by the ocean. I’ve never much liked it; it was far too sandy and you never knew WHAT was floating down there, but it was always present.
Once I began travelling, I realised that this was rare. I began to feel claustrophobic in cities and towns that had never seen the ocean. I had no link no home, no means of remembering what it felt like to have the comfort of the shore line or the option of sitting on the sand with my friends.
Due to this realisation, I have learnt to appreciate the ocean more. Coming home, I was able to see how privileged I was to see the sea and horizon meet when I was in the city. I was able to embrace peaceful it was to take the short 20 minute drive down the road to one of the best surf beaches in the world and just sit.
Now that I have moved, I have found that many aspects of my life have changed. The country I am living in; the culture; the people; even the size of the supermarkets. Yet I have realised that of the few things that have stayed the same, the most tangible is the ocean. Frequently I take the 10 minute walk to the shore line and simply walk. Sometimes I will sit and stare and I will pray, I will listen to God’s voice, or I will sing. More often than not, the music I listen to is by Australian artists. Not purposefully, but rather because I feel I need to be comforted, to be brought back ‘home’. This music and the ocean take me home.
The first night I officially arrived in my new town, I was unable to sleep. Jetlag mixed with caffeine and nervous anticipation will do that to you. After lying in my bed for a few hours, I gave in and decided to go for a walk. So as soon as it became light outside, I put on my shoes and went exploring. After taking a few wrong turns (my directional sense is below nil) I found myself at the beach. And that morning, I watched the sun rise over the ocean. As I walked I was able to see it peek out from the horizon, then quickly elevate itself higher in the sky until I could feel the full effects of the Floridian sun.
As I walked, I was in a state of shock. After all these years, I was in America. I was working for an organisation I have loved for so long; an organisation that understood my story. I was beginning the journey that I God has promised to me nearly 2 years prior. I was scared, tired, overwhelmed and slightly afraid I would get dizzy and faint from the heat. Yet I was completely at peace. Because as the sun rose, God told me that this one was for me. That I was meant to be here; and that I was not alone in this change.
I have continued to revisit the ocean as much as possible. I find it is a place of space and restoration after a challenging day. But even more than this as I see the waves and I try to avoid the sea foam from hitting my shoes , I know that this same ocean connects to another ocean which in turn will eventually lead to the very same ocean that I see when I am in my hometown. And when I remember this, I don’t feel so scared or overwhelmed. I remember that this is the same sea that my friends and family are near, that each drop making up the ocean has been all over the world.
Oceans can be scary. They are wide, vast and deep. They can often appear to have no end. I remember when I was younger, having the image of myself walking on water towards Jesus. He was beckoning me ashore while also guiding me across the waves of my depression and anxiety. He was teaching me to trust him to overcome the challenges in my life. As I became healthier and I grew up, my journey changed and I left the ocean. I walked through deserts and cities until I eventually saw a gate I was being led to. I knew it was America, and so I prayed and prayed and cried out to God, asking him to pull me through them. I so desperately wanted to be in the place I was made to be.
Well now I am here. And I have no idea what I am feeling. Tears rarely come, I wake up daily in a house I am learning is my home and I am living with people I met 3 weeks ago. Life is good, my experiences are good, and I am being stretched. This is what I asked for and what God gave me in the space of a month after I was accepted as an intern. I still feel disorientated, like I don’t know where the city gates are and if I should be prepared to walk out of them soon or watch them be closed behind me. But I can still see the ocean. I can still see the same moon and the photographs of the people I love; and I know that God is with me.
Life is made up of changes. Change brings growth and maturity. But it is a comfort to know that even in this change, God is still the same. Because of that, I can feel safe. I know that whatever happens and wherever I end up, God will take me there. After getting me to Florida in less than a month and having my visa passed in 2 days, I have no reason to doubt him a part from my own weaknesses. As I try desperately to cling to my home yet embrace the new life I am in, I am comforted by the fact that God loves me as I am. Our relationship is not dependant on my own efforts to please him from a foreign country, but on his grace in taking me here.
As I was walking along the shore line the other day, I stopped and stared at the ocean. It was sunset, but I couldn’t see it over the ocean due to the hemisphere I was in. This troubled me somewhat, as it broke my sense of normality. Despite this, God gave me a new image. This time instead of walking on water towards the shore, I was diving into the ocean, swimming into the great unknown.
I am pleased that the ocean is no longer a scary place for me. It has become a refuge, a bridge between my old life and new. I know that I will see things that trouble me; that I will be met by waves that threaten to pull me under. Yet I will also see beautiful things I never thought possible; people I had never anticipated meeting. And so instead of trying to find dry land, this time I shall embrace whatever lies ahead of me. Even though the ocean is vast and there is seemingly no end to where it meets the horizon; I remember that it leads me both to the safety and comfort of my home and the promise of whatever lies ahead. In this, perhaps somewhere in between two countries is what I will call home, and what I have been made for all along.
“But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader