Between towering vacation homes squished tall and snug, we followed the public boardwalk that stretched long and narrow. And then before us, the expanse.
I walked behind him, as my boy met the sea, months before his fifth birthday. His plaid blue hat atop his head. He stopped at the edge where the railing turned to meet the stairs, the stairs covered in sand, and his head turned to the left and to the right and back again. Quietly, he observed, as is his nature.
And after contentment rushed through my bones, the kind that only comes in this place where my soul is at home, I took his hand and said, “Come on!”
We walked together on the sand. He was cautious and when I tried to walk him to where the water splashed our toes, he shivered and reached out to be held. The winds were strong, the waves crashed, he was so small before the sea. I held him close and spoke in his ear, isn’t it beautiful? It’s my favorite. This is where God lives. Or, rather this is where you can always find him, if ever you aren’t sure. Intrigue slipped through his trembling eyes. His sister was scared too, which is uncommon for our Wild Eyes, but she saw her brother afraid and so she would be too.
The tide was low and they played in a small pool far from the waves, where giant rocks, covered in a slippery green grass, created shallow streams and caverns. A safe haven of exploration and wonder. Every so often, they’d look out towards the greatness before them, not yet ready. Matt and I jumped in the waves while Gigi and Allan built sand castles and collected shells. We let the waves thrash us around. It was therapy as life and its adult heaviness melted in the power of the water, in the place where God lives. We could be seen, but not heard in our bubble-sound-barrier of the wind and waves. We were like children and we were free. And we flirted in wildly appropriate ways.
We talked about how we want our children to be brave. They looked so small down the shore, playing in the sand. We talked about how we want them to live with abandon and delight in the wonder of nature, to be able to feel him so closely in places like this, because we do -- so very much.
We returned, scooped them up, and carried them the water’s edge. They clung tightly as ever one could. And safely in our arms we jumped and laughed until they did too. We sat down and the water splashed over us. Their cautious laughter grew into certainty, the shaking stopped, and then they stood on their own. The salt water spray was still shocking, but no longer terrifying.
I want to remember it forever, the way he was brave first, the way his laughter started and then she followed his lead. How he was then standing on his own, radiant with courage. Sometimes, he’d fall and the water would wash over him, sending him running up the shore, but he’d turn right back toward the sea and try again. She stayed close and gripped Daddy’s hands, but her little body shrieked with joy.
They didn’t want to stop for lunch. They didn’t want to leave. And the days later, in the tiny kiddie pool at home they showed me how they jumped in the waves, like this, mom, like this.
life is not easy and it was never intended to be, for a life well-lived will always be overflowing with maddening goodness and breath-taking badness, with easy and hard, and with wondrous beauty and ferocious ugly. and you’ll be tired and weary, you’ll question and fear, you’ll feel confusion and doubt.
i hope you’ll always know that when the world is dark and you’re absolutely unsure of everything that you’ll find him at the water’s edge. you’ll see his power in the thundering waves that smash upon the shore. you’ll feel him in the salty spray that covers you, in the wind that sweeps up your hair and makes it dance. you’ll marvel in the sunlight and moonlight that sparkles across the water. and that you’ll know in this moment, when you stand before the great big sea, that the creator of the universe is with you. and find his boundless love pouring out in the roaring and crashing and spraying and sparkling.
my darlings, if you dare to live, you’ll often be lonely. if you dare to dream, you’ll have to jump into the unknown and sometimes the unknown will be more like a place where you set up camp and stay for a while, rather a brief moment or a quick visit. you’ll face opposition in a world full of logic and reason and the masses won’t understand. and you’ll feel small, oh so small, but, my dear ones, be brave, be free, be strong. his love is an ocean.