Have you ever had a jellyfish fight? It’s like a snowball fight, but slimy. Instead of the brisk burst of thousands of powdery ice crystals hitting your cheek and tickling your neck, you get slapped with something like a wet Jello jiggler that smells like the ocean.
Moon jellies are a clear, non-stinging jellyfish that we have in the Puget Sound. Every once in awhile a tide will come through carrying hundreds more jellies than normal. If you just happen to be 10 and spending a weekend at the family beach cabin with cousins and friends during one of those tides, the only thing that makes sense is to fill your t-shirt with jellies until it stretches to your knees and wage war.
Have you ever skipped a sand dollar across the water’s surface? They’re infinitely better than any flat stone. Or tipped a rock to see dime-sized crabs scurry? Or filled a jar with sea glass? Or paddled a canoe late on an August night watching fish swim under the surface sending trails of tiny phosphorescent diatoms that glow and sparkle like pixie dust?
Here in the Northwest we are spoiled for beaches brimming with wonder. The beach is full of magic and all that magic is a result of being touched by the sea. All those shells are only waiting for beachcombers because they once housed animals that lived beneath the water. All that seaglass is only collectible because it was first pounded by waves against the rocks and sand. Those tiny crabs are only under those rocks because they are waiting for the tide to cover them again.
My family has a raft we leave anchored in front of our family beach home all summer. It’s pretty tippy, but you can sit, feet dangling and tingling with cold, and let the low waves rock you. You can watch the wind graze the surface and spy a seal snout coming up for breath. From this vantage point, you can experience the sea. You can feel it’s movement, see it’s impact, and sit in awe.
But sometimes I am overwhelmed by the need to fully get in. Not just sit on the surface, not just dangle my feet, but slide off the raft keeping me afloat. I want to feel what it’s like when that crisp water reaches my scalp, when the cold hits behind my ears and under my arms and permeates every dark, hidden place.
We can see the movement of God in the world around us and stand in awe. We can walk along His shores, dangle our feet in His presence, and be truly changed by the experience.
But over and over again, God calls us to more. God has far more than just the wonders visible from the edge or ankle-deep.
In the Gospels, He calls Peter and Andrew to drop their fishing nets and their way of life to follow Him, and they do (Luke 5:1-11). He calls people to give up everything they have and to choose relationship with Him over relationship with any other (Luke 14:25-27). We are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Swim in Jesus. Let Him permeate your whole self. Let Him reach every part of you.
Because, He has come that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). He has depths open to us, but we have to choose to explore. This is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, “that they being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
You cannot possibly experience the depths of the water until you begin to walk away from the shore.
I don’t know exactly what your first step from the shore or your first shove off your raft looks like, but it probably feels a lot like a risk. It might feel as shocking as plunging into 47° Puget Sound waters. Maybe it looks like joining that small group full of strangers for the sake of community or stepping into a ministry role even though you feel ill-equipped. Perhaps He’s asking you to abandon a habit you know is hurting you or a comfort you’ve chosen over trusting in Him. Or maybe it looks like getting up every morning while the world is still quiet, opening His word, and creating space to let His message wash over you.
Whatever it is, do it. Get out of the boat. Join Him in the waves. Let His overtaking of your life move and change you like the tides softening the edges of sea glass. Let everyone who encounters you notice the salt on your skin as you point them to the source of all the wonder in your life.
One summer night we got in. The bonfire and the friendship had been warm, but the possibility of seeing the bioluminescence drew us to the waterline. Most evenings of the season end with my toes in the biting-cold water, stirring up the tiny phytoplankton until they burst with light like thousands of miniscule, watery fireflies. They trail your fingertips like sparks from a wand. That night it began with branches swishing under the surface, then our toes, and then we waded in up to our ankles. It was pure magic, but it wasn’t enough. Three of us walked deeper, breath catching and limbs numbing as we disappeared into the black water all the way up to our ears.
It is a thing we simply could not have seen if we had remained on the shore. Legs churning, arms swirling, every part of us glowed.