Monday, June 25, 2012

Calm of the Deep

Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

Photo by D-Wight
 all rights reserved
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls. 

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I love the ocean... I have always loved the ocean. I loved it when I was a child, even when I got stung by jellyfish. I loved it when I was a teenager for the freedom it presented.  I loved it even more when I was in college and learned to scuba dive. I spent a tremendous portion of my Sophomore and Junior years under some type of water, whether it was in the HYPER building pool on UTK's campus, the springs of Northern Florida or in the Florida Keys. Training myself or others how to truly enjoy the depths of the ocean devoured me in college.
People would often ask,"Are you not afraid of the depth, the critters, or various other possibilities?" The answer was always, and still is,
"No, the depth brings a peace I can not explain, you just have to experience it to understand it."

When you are 100 ft underwater the silence is exhilarating, the calm is so deep it rings to your core and the beauty is unimaginable. Pictures do it no justice and words can't lift it high enough to explain the overwhelming calm and peace that comes from being totally cut off from the world. I guess I should say, you aren't TOTALLY cut off because I am certain if the boat disappeared and the tank pressure dropped to zero the OH SO amazing calm would flitter off like a school of fish being stalked by a Great White. You are, however, cut off from the effects of this world. You hear nothing, save the air bubbles flowing from your regulator, you see nothing, but the vastness in front of you and you feel nothing, but the very gentle ebb and flow of the ocean around you.

I think the last part of that statement is probably one of the most impressive experiences I have ever been blessed enough to experience. No matter how rough the ocean is on the surface, when you are deep in the ocean's belly the roughness is reduced to a slow, gentle movement. I remember one time we were going to a dive festival in the Florida Keys and the water was so rough that half the potential divers were 'feeding the fishes' while praying for God to calm the seas. It was rough... BUT the dive master promised us that the rough ride would be worth it when we got to the deep water festival. "This was going to be awesome" he told us, "when we get out to the reef all the dive boats will be piping music into the water and you will be able to swim around the reef and listen to the best beach music" But the only music we heard at that moment was yak & hurl, a green band with lots of members on our little dive boat. So let's just say, I had my doubts, at this point, that the dive would be as smooth as he was promising. When we reached the reef, the ocean was delivering roughly 5-6 foot waves but at the dive masters encouragement we suited up and jumped in.... SMACK....wave....CHOKE....inhaled wave.... I couldn't get deep enough, fast enough! So I exhaled the air from my BC and sank like a rock into the deep, rough waters.
Then it happened~ I huge wave rolled by, I saw the boats rock and roll above me and all I felt was a gentle lift and fall... ebb and flow.... I was astonished! For the next few minutes I floated, suspended in the middle of the ocean like a fish, just absorbing the gentle movement of the water around me. I knew the waves on the surface were not calm, I could see the boats rolling and smacking the surface, but the movement I felt was SO gentle! It was amazing to recognize the difference just a few feet of depth could make in the how I experienced the world around me. After a few minutes of floating the dive proceed and I got to experience life on the reef while listening to steel drums, not as peaceful as a normal dive but definitely a fun experience.
I had not thought of this dive in a long time, and then, a few Sundays ago Dr. Haun was talking about the Fruits of the Spirit, you know: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control; but specifically the fruit of Joy. In his sermon he mentioned that while Joy and happiness are often linked they are not the same. Happiness isn't always an indicator of Joy and Joy is not always reflected as happiness. While happiness is based on outward circumstances and conditions, true Joy is inward. Joy is a tremendously deep dimension of delight and enthusiasm that can't not be rocked by the ups and downs (ebbs and flows) of this life. Joy comes from the inside, a deep place within our heart and mind that stills us against the waves of this life.
When we are hanging off the back of the boat of life, wrenching up our toe nails, we know as soon as we jump in the depths of God's word we will feel peace. The movement of the situation will still be present but it will not rock us to the core.  The Joy the Bible is talking about in Galatians 5: 22-23 & Psalms 28:7 strengthens our core so it is not shakeable. It makes us solid and able to withstand the outward waves with out losing our inward enthusiasm.