They say that the waves on my beloved Lake Michigan reached a height of twenty feet last week–crests of far-flung fresh spray spouting into the grey sky.
I love the Great Lakes: their wide expanses of blue touch me every time I travel to see them–I could look at them for hours. Often, on vacation, I do. And I walk along the crashing waves until my rolled-up pants are soaked and I throw rock after rock as far as I can and I wave at the far-off ships. Hello, hello, I see you there.
Once, when I was little, I stood with my father on the beach. The under-current was strong that day, so he told me we wouldn’t go out very far–just our feet. He held my hand and we stepped into the water. A few waves crashed, and then the under-current began. He, being strong and big, didn’t feel anything. But I, being little and light, had my feet pulled out from under me as the water pulled my entire body towards the horizon. I remember the feeling of being sucked towards the deep water, the rocks against my back, my startled face suddenly staring at the bright sun. My dad’s hand, gripping mine, pulled me back, rescuing me from the water.
“Well,” he said, “we’re done with this for the day.”
A few weeks ago was the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a giant ore-lugging boat who had traveled the waters many a time. For all of the beauty of the lakes, there is also pronounced danger.
Sometimes, I feel like discernment = my heart floating somewhere on Lake Michigan.
There are times when the sun is setting over the water and everything is a rosy shade of golden light, and then my heart is OK and I’m like, “Aw yiss, God, this consolation is just what the doctor ordered.”
But then, other times, it’s like the waves are twenty-feet high and I’m like, “Dang, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it out of here. I don’t know.”
I once heard a homily where the priest said that, in the ancient Jewish mind, water = chaos. And, as one of his first actions, Jesus is baptized. In a way, then, Jesus comes to join our chaos. And then what? Water is turned to wine–Jesus helps us find beauty. And then what? Jesus walks on water–because he is more than what we fear. Jesus calms the storms. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Who is he, I wonder, that even the winds and seas obey him?
One of my favorite prayers is that of St. Brendan the Navigator. His ending words have been echoing lately in my mind.
“O Christ,” he prays, with sincerity and conviction, “will you help me on the wild waves?”
I have nothing else but this prayer these days, it seems.
That and the anchor of hope. Hope that God commands all these things around us, Hope that His love will sustain.