That day, I needed an ocean. It was my day for retreat, for silence and solitude, for listening. The roar had become especially loud, and I was in need of a whisper. So I drove the hour and a half to the ocean and stood on the sand in my winter coat, gloved hands tucked deep in wool pockets, hair escaping from every attempt to keep it tame under my warm hat --- because when offered fresh wind, who can bear to be tamed?
Actually, I often need an ocean. It puts things in perspective, makes you feel small and part of something. You can’t help but be caught up in it all, and the sound of rushing water fills your ears, your soul. You hear it and turn to see the wave spill over the dune and run laughing down and around and back. But before it can quite make it back to the deep, a second rushing churns in, mixing new with old until swirling and dipping they move together back into the whimsical, weighty dance.
And oh, the treasure at the water’s edge! Isn’t it always true that the rocks and shells at the very edge of the sea are the most beautiful? These are the ones constantly washed and brilliant, smoothed and rounded. My deep wool pockets fill with them, but when I pull them out to look again, they are dulled and lifeless. I can’t bear it, and I gently drop them back into the edge of the sea.
This is what an ocean does for me --- an ocean of solitude, of quiet, of retreat. It is a space where the trickle of old thoughts meets the rushing of new thoughts and both swirl together drawn back into the Deep. What rushes back in is altogether fresh, bringing treasures of hope and expectancy, dreams never dreamed before. The trick is to tuck them deep in my pockets but keep them vibrant and alive. The trick is to keep my wandering self down by the edge of the water.
Because retreat must come to an end. But as deep calls to deep in the moments of each tomorrow, I can stay here by the water’s edge, refreshed by wind and washed by water. Indeed my soul does long for the One who is an "ocean depth of happy rest." In retreat, I realize again His constant invitation to those depths.
I’m planning my next quarterly retreat today, putting it on the calendar and beginning to ask God to prepare a listening place.
I’m holding a stone in my hand and gently placing it into the water at our prayer station, remembering the water’s edge today.