I grew up in northern California, about 30 minutes from its beautiful coastline. Weekend day trips to the beach were commonly taken by my family. Though outings to the beach were always something our family enjoyed, we were never encouraged to go in the water. My mother was never fond of the idea of her children swimming in the great blue waters of the Pacific, due to its undertow. She had shared with me how easy it was for the ocean to carry you out much farther than you had ever planned to go.
So, I always spent my time there on dry land. I would walk up and down the rich warm sand, hunting for the most exquisite seashells I could find. I was perfectly content watching the waters repeatedly kiss the shoreline, while I stayed dry, building sandcastles that would inevitably come crashing down within minutes of lifting the bucket I had used as a mold. I knew nothing other than playing along the shore, so there never seemed to be anything I believed I was missing out on.
One summer as a teen, I vacationed with extended family at a beach town in the southern part of my state. During this particular trip to the beach, I ventured out. This trip was different, because I elected to get into the water. Swimming in the ocean wasn’t ever anything I grew up doing, but somehow seeing my cousins basking in that seemingly refreshing San Diego water, with delight written on their faces, made it much more appealing.
I took one step into the foaming shoreline, and found that it wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had been led to believe the ocean waters were, when I was much younger. Every step I took, invited me further into that serene blue ocean. Each step made it that much easier to take yet another step, then another. Before I knew it, I was treading water. What I had originally thought of as a beautiful blue taste of heaven turned out to be filled with unappetizing salt. In addition to that, I no longer found myself in the shallow portion where the waters could kiss the shore.
As I reflect back on that beach trip, I see how that event mirrors much of how I lived my life. I would often draw a line in the sand on a particular issue, (confident I would never cross it), all to find that crossing that one line, wasn’t so bad. Before I knew it, that damaging poor decision, and others after it, would lead me out into uncharted waters, that didn’t deliver on the promise their appearance had led me to believe.
While I began to tread the waters of that San Diego beach, I felt a tug on my ankle. That tug caused my whole head to unexpectedly go under. I remember every time I began to gain the strength to fight to get back up, the weight of the pull kept me down under the water.
There I was, fighting to get up for air. I had drifted so far out from the shore, that the pursuit to get back to where I was, took all my efforts. Once I was able to get my head above water, and breathe in some much needed air, I finally realized how far from land I really was. I looked around for the familiar faces of my family, but all I saw were unfamiliar ones. I paddled my arms so fast in an effort to reach dry land after that.
Much of my life has been spent treading in waters that God never intended me to go into. Instead of being content on the shores He wanted to provide, I would find something else more riveting, that would inevitably hook me into the nets of destructive seas.
Sin often takes us farther than we ever intended to go. It pulls us down, and we are soon over our heads! We are somehow convinced of the fun to be had in those wonderful pools of blue, but the oasis it promises, leaves a bad taste of unforgettable seaweed in our mouth. And if we listen to that voice of a particularly seductive sin, eventually God’s voice is drowned from our heart, leaving us shipwrecked.
The Bible is filled with all sorts of folks just like us. People who were convinced that the troubled waters they entered, weren’t that bad. There was Jonah whose refusal to obey God led him to board a ship. A ship that carried him into deep waters, after which he became the temporary lunch for a whale. (see Jonah 1:17) Or King David, who instead of being on the dry land of the battlefield where he was called, found himself in a sea of compromise at the sight of someone bathing by moonlight. (2 Samuel 11:2) Both of these choices carried Jonah and King David into seas of regret.
I don’t have a rock to throw in the waters that engulfed Jonah or King David. I can truly relate to both. I’ve personally set my focus on people (much like King David did), that I had no business bathing in sin with. I can also identify with Jonah, who struggled with a defiant heart towards God, simply because I did not understand His ways.
So on what shore have you found yourself lacking contentment? What sin is taking you in its undertow? Has the line you once drew in the sand now been blurred on the shores, from waters you’ve entered?