Tossed in the Waves
by Sarah Catherine Straw
I can feel my body rock back and forth of its own accord—I feel like I’m weightless and being tossed to and fro by the water as it swishes and splashes all around me. My feet are barely touching the sand and, at times, I can feel it move and sink beneath my feet, causing me to lose my footing—causing me to lose my grip, my only hope at keeping my head above the waves.
People always told me that I wasn’t supposed to have things figured out. They said I was still so young and I didn’t need to know the answers, didn’t need to know what my life would look like, or even know what I wanted to do when I was older. Now I’m older and I still don’t know. In fact, I think I may be more confused about my life and its purpose than I was 10 years ago.
Who am I supposed to be? How do I become that woman? What is my purpose? Will I be able to be happy and content? Will I be good enough? Will my life matter? What if this, what if that, what if, what if, what if?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
When I get on that “what if” train, it feels impossible to get off no matter how badly I want to scream and shout and silence my annoying brain and my anxious heart. There have been times when the anxiety I feel about my life, both as it currently is and as it will be in the future, has literally made me sick. I’m not just talking the stomach ache type of sick...I’m talking gut wrenching, stomach churning, tears, panic attacks, headaches, loss of appetite—all at the same time—type of sick.
There are many times when I FEEL as though I am a little girl again—back in the ocean being rocked to and fro by the waves. But sometimes the waves become too strong, the current is too swift for my little feet and my little arms can’t manage to keep me afloat. I can feel my head get swept under the salty, biting, waves and I can feel the burn in my throat and chest as the salt water races through my body. I hear the muffled yell of my father, “Take my hand. Here, grab on!” and just like it’s happened so many times on those sweet summer family vacations, I feel my dad grab ahold of my arm and yank me up above the waves. He helps me wade back to shore, carrying the majority of my weight in his arms. He pats me on the back, brushes the hair out of my face, asks how he can help me feel better. If there are tears, he wipes them away.
I’m not that little girl anymore. Although my earthly father is still one of my best friends and my heroes, he isn’t the one who comes to my rescue. Now, whenever I get that woozy feeling in my stomach or my feet feel unsure of the ground beneath me; when anxiety is crashing into me and trying to pull me under, I am reminded of my Father in Heaven—of His great love, mercy, forgiveness, and His capability and willingness to sustain us through whatever life throws (or floats) our way.
Anchored. No matter the storm that arises.
Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
What a relief that is! I can’t do this life alone—I can’t keep my head above the waves in my own strength. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I’m a strong enough swimmer that I can navigate the currents and wade over the waves in my own physical strength. But not long after I set out to conquer life in my own power, I get tired. It starts slowly but then picks up speed—the waves get higher as my resolve gets lower. The current swirls around me almost as fast and furiously as my head and my heart are spinning and tumbling. The whole thing turns into one big mess and before I know it I’m scrambling—gasping for air and pleading for mercy.
God calms every storm. He shows up in the moments when we think we may not make it - right when we need Him the most. We can live courageously knowing that we are anchored in His love. He rescues us from our own messes time and time again. He always welcomes us back with arms opened wide—celebrating that we have returned to dock and want to allow Him to be our anchor...holding us down, supporting us, keeping us afloat throughout all the storms, the raging seas, and everything else that life throws at us when we least expect it.
This anchor that God provides—the anchor that we absolutely do NOT deserve...this is His grace. This is His love, burrowing down deep into our hearts and taking root. It is this deeply rooted anchor of grace and love that allows us to step out in faith—to take blind leaps into the abyss that is the blackest, roughest of waters around us. When we start sinking beneath the waves it is only because we tried to go our own way, in our own strength. But when we step out on the water knowing that we are loved, that we are forgiven, that we are shrouded in God’s amazing, unending grace—then, and only then we can rest assured that we have an anchor for our souls. When we’re anchored in His love we can begin to answer those achingly painful life questions: “Who am I supposed to be? How do I become that woman? What is my purpose? Will I be able to be happy and content? Will I be good enough? Will my life matter?” And although all of us will have different and varying answers to these questions that manifest in our hearts, we can all find peace knowing that we are anchored in an Almighty God...a safe place, a calm place, a place full of hope.
2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
― Thomas Merton