The Ocean and the Holy Spirit -musings on Pentecost Sunday
I was born and raised in California. Unfortunately, I was raised in the desert. But I did make it to the beach every now and then. California is rather famous for its beaches, sun lovers and of course, surfers. Every single serious surfer I know was disciplined. Except they would never use that word. It would be “dedicated” or “practicing my art” or “riding the waves”. The discipline they practiced didn’t seem difficult because they loved what they were doing. They derived satisfaction from the results of the disciplining of their bodies and minds to ride the waves. Of the surfers I know, most simply love the water and the waves. The sound of the pounding surf, the salty spray of the ocean, the ebb and flow of the water, and the sun beating down from above.
Any of you who have spent enough time in the ocean also know that it leaves you feeling its presence after you get out. One’s body retains a sense of the water pushing and pulling on you. The really great surfers eventually gain a natural sense of the water, a feeling for how it will be moving.
For those of you who didn’t grow up near the ocean, there’s something important to understand about the ocean. It’s predictably unpredictable. I love to swim in the ocean. Number one rule in the ocean however is this: never turn your back on the ocean. It can be hard to handle even when you know what you’re about to do, like body surf a wave. I once got rolled riding a wave and then the churning water held me under. I could see nothing but sandy water and quickly lost my sense of up and down. But I was comfortable in the water, I was experienced with it. I held my breath and waited for the churning to stop. Once it slowed enough, I waited to feel which way natural buoyancy was moving my body and then turned to go to the surface. The surprising thing was my feet immediately hit the sandy bottom and I was able to stand. I was actually in barely four feet of water. And all this was the result of my consciously choosing to ride the wave, never mind getting hit by one when you aren’t expecting it. Another rule in the water: don’t panic, it will only make things worse.
I was stationed on a submarine as a young man and we once did a short swim call in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Nothing but our little sub and the vast slowly rolling ocean. There is no escaping one’s smallness in the midst of the ocean. There are thousands of feet of water under you and vast miles to the horizon. The sea was calm, just a slightly visible rising and falling of the water. However, its presence and force were inescapable.
In the Gospel of John Chapter 3 verse 5-8 (ESV) it reads:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Air and water are both fluids, water is just a lot denser than air obviously. If you’ve ever been outside in the wind for a while, you will also know that wind can leave a mark very similar to the ocean. You can feel it on your face for a while after the experience. But it doesn’t have the same lasting intensity as spending time in the ocean.
A couple of years ago I wrote about discipline in general. You will also find the dictionary definition at the bottom of this blog post. That blog really was the beginning point for me, in terms of learning spiritual discipline. Learning to pray regularly. Learning to fast. Learning to be in community with fellow believers.
As I sat down to write this piece, I had in my head the idea to write about spiritual disciplines in general. But as I reflected, I realized something about this whole process. One does not learn the ocean in a day, or even a week. It takes years of time in the water. And more than a few bumps and bruises. I will warn you now, Satan is not interested in you really praying.
So, now here I am two years down the line following spiritual disciplines. Of practicing tuning out the distractions of this world and turning away from the pleasures of this world. Of learning to do it out of love. Out of love for my Lord, the redeemer of my soul.
And I am just getting the sense of something, that still small voice Elijah spoke of hearing. I am getting the impression that learning to sense the Holy Spirit is immensely similar to learning waves and ocean, but way more elusive. I don’t claim to have heard the whisper. But I’ve felt the breath. I’ve sensed the Spirit move in my own life and of those close to me. A couple of times now it has rolled me. But I decided to not panic. The Lord commanded us to not be afraid. Don’t panic in the water, it will not improve things. Fear will not improve the situation around you. Oh, trust me I’ve been afraid several times. But I didn’t act on it, I think I can say that honestly. And the Lord pulled us through. Because He is the God who saves.
How else does a mere mortal chase the immortal wind?
How else does a mere man follow the whispers of The Infinite Divine?
1.the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.“a lack of proper parental and school discipline”
the controlled behavior resulting from discipline.“he was able to maintain discipline among his men”
synonyms: control, training, teaching, instruction, regulation, direction, order, authority, rule, strictness, a firm hand; More
activity or experience that provides mental or physical training.plural noun: disciplines“the tariqa offered spiritual discipline”
a system of rules of conduct.“he doesn’t have to submit to normal disciplines”