When I was in my early twenties, I had a very bad habit of spending money I didn’t have. I don’t recall paying attention during the consumer Ed class in high school (or maybe I skipped that day) when they talked about debt and more specifically credit card debt. When I was twenty-two, my mom asked me once how I could afford to book a trip out to the west coast with a boy I was dating and I just rolled my eyes. Hadn’t she ever heard of MasterCard? Not surprisingly I spent years—yes, years—paying off the couple thousand dollars I charged for the trip (of course that particular boy never paid me back for his share). Every month I was reminded of the bad choice, or more appropriate, the series of bad choices that went along with that week long adventure. Probably one of the only things I don't regret about that trip is the time I got to spend with the sea. The ocean, for me, has always been a spectacular immensity. It reminds me of my smallness and in contrast, the earth’s largeness and resilience. I think about the fact that the sound: like all of humanity breathing in and out through pursed lips—continues for epochs. The waves I watched back then when my hair was black like cormorant wings are still moving today. If I close my eyes, I can smell the salt clouds, hear the seals bellow on the jagged rocks in the distance, see how the line of the horizon melts and seems to stretch on forever a limitless turquoise. On this regrettably expensive trip, I spent a lot of time sitting on an overlook at a small motel we found while driving south down HWY 101 from Portland. I laugh now, but we had decided to just “wing it” (ah, one of the privileges of having no dependents). We landed in the big unfamiliar city, rented a car (I’m still not sure why they let you rent a car before your brain is fully developed), and just drove. I remember seeing for the first time and then again and again and again the way that the landscape shifted in and out of the sand-lined coast and just as you were coming around a bend what lied right beyond it was the most expansive, most beautiful ocean scene, complete with foggy boulders that jutted out of the sand here and there as if some Greek goddess had flung them there on purpose.
After a couple hours driving along, we passed a little series of sky-blue houses dotting the ledge of one of the expansive views, and I told the boy to stop. This was it. We unloaded the few bags we had brought with us and nestled in to the old motel with outdated beachy decor. The rest of the trip was taking little day trips from our new home base: riding horses on the beach at sunset, seeing other coastal cities, hiking. No offense to the boy, but it is hard for me to think there was anyone else with me when I look back on this trip because all I felt was a pleasant solitude with this other presence right next to me—the ocean.
The boy I was with, thankfully, liked to spend time alone, too, and met a native west-coaster at the motel and they did what boys do while I was able to take a little notebook and sit at my overlook. I still have that little book with scribbles in it, describing how I felt so connected with the sea, how it made me feel like home—something I had been searching for a long, long time. How it made me miss something I didn’t know I was looking for.
Looking out over the waves has a tendency to make me remember things that I’d rather forget. Things I’ve done and things that have happened to me. Back in my early twenties during this trip was no different. As I sat on my grassy spot with my little notebook in the dewy mist of the early morning or right as the sun was falling into the water at dusk, I wrote about some of the things I had come through and how I had ended up sitting where I did at that particular moment in time.
When I think of the word resilience, I think about the sea and how no matter what, the waters move: in and out, back and forth, carrying its heaviness into the shoreline and then back out to the horizon again. There is this calm, even when the winds gust and the waves seem to crash angrily, like no matter what God is breathing through this part of creation two simple words: keep going.
No matter what, keep going.
The day I wrote the last check (back when we wrote things called checks) to pay off the trip, I let out a big ocean-style exhale. I had stuck with it and finally my debt had been paid. By that time, I had also found the miracle of recovery and I had persevered through a lot of murky waters to get there.
In the Book of James 1:2-3 (one of my faves) in the Bible, James talks about how we can “consider it pure joy” when we face trials because this is how perseverance is grown. The ability to endure, to be resilient, to keep going no matter what—these skills are forged during the tough times. Like the waves, we can keep moving no matter what.
Lovely friends, I’d love for us to consider in the month of March how our own stories of resilience have been forged. What trials have we endured? How many moments have we lived through only to feel joy on the other side of them? What is your bright story of resilience?
My hope and prayer for us this month is that we can continue to keep going.
No matter what.
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