Friday, August 21, 2015

If God Was An Ocean

A few weeks ago, I was standing on a Texas beach looking down the shore line.  Beyond noticing the shore line itself, I noticed another line about 30 feet out into the ocean.  A line of people stretching as far as the eye could see.  A line of people who waded as far as they could.  A line of people who had to stop because only their head was poking out of the water.  A line of people who could go no further without fear of drowning. 
It occurred to me that if God were an ocean, we are merely standing on or near the shore.  We are stuck 30 feet out.  A stone's throw from the edge.  When we are as deep as we can get, we are only as close as an infant in a wading pool to understanding the ocean and the God Who made it. 

At any given time, we may be on the edge of the water, or on top of it, or under it, or just looking from afar, but we may not live in it.  Not yet.
The ocean is so immense that even one of its contents may be enough to captivate our imagination forever.  Collecting rocks and shells has been a habit of a lifetime.  Among many others, one shell clamors for my attention and captures my affection for the infinite.  On the inside of this fossilized shell, what looks like a sparse tree in the middle of winter is etched onto a background that could easily be outer space... 
Observing these contrasting worlds of earth and space coming together to line a shell's interior gets me every time.  
While this is very satisfying for me, I'm blessed to know, that sometimes, this very sort of thing surpasses mere fancy and excites on a much grander scale.  In the testimony of a dear friend, something much more than her imagination was captured when she encountered a shell of her own. 
My friend’s conversion from agnosticism to Catholicism began with the observation of a simple shell.  Her daughter brought it to her, desiring that she join her in appreciating its beauty. “Look, Mom, isn’t this beautiful?”  She was holding a very small clam shell, which resembled angel wings when opened, with purple stripes radiating from the center.  My friend replied, “Yes, isn’t it amazing that that would happen by chance?”  At which time, God responded within her, “No, it’s not chance.  I am the Creator.  I created it.  I made it all.  It is time you stopped running away from me and come home.”

She has never been the same.
I wonder how many people have experienced a conversion of heart when impressed by the beauty, power, and immensity of the ocean?  Or even one of the smallest of its contents?
Of course, God is not an ocean, but He created it.  He even used an ocean to describe Himself in the late 1600s, through a private revelation to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Jesus described His Sacred Heart as an “infinite ocean of mercy for poor sinners”. 
Can you imagine an ocean of mercy, full of all good things?  Instead of a gulf to swim in with sharks, fish, whales, and shells, it is a heart to live in.  For you.  For us.  A heart full of joy, humility, mercy, and love…
In considering joy alone, Matthew 25:23 tells us “His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master'.”
A beloved priest once said, “We must enter into the joy of our master, because it is too great to enter into us.  We cannot contain it.” 

"Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made   heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever..."                                         Psalm 146:5-6
Dear God of Earth and Space, Shells and Sea, Imaginations and Hearts,
Thank you for all that impels us toward You.  Thank you for friends and priests who confirm what we believe about You and Your Nature.  Thank you for the ocean and all of creation that hints at Your Greatness and our smallness.  Thank you for my shell.  Thank you for revealing yourself to us through people, places, and things.  Please grant us the grace we need to know and love You more.  Amen.

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