The sea was singing an old song. A song of longing; the sea wailed of being a spirit in an earthly body. I needed to hear it again: Zephaniah 3:17
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Diminished by my physical cravings, I found myself weeping on the shores of a cold pebbled beach. The sea and sky were winter pale- white blue. My heart felt pale too. I was pouring out pain that I hadn’t even been aware was waiting inside me.
I was touching the loneliness that only God knows. My mother used to cry like this. I remember coming home to see her stirring a huge pot of spaghetti in the kitchen. She was seasoning the sauce with her tears. I felt so powerless.
‘Why are you crying mum?” I wanted to ease her suffering. Her honesty saved me. “I don’t know.” She cried.
Today I think I know that she was caught up in the dance that KD Lang sings about. The delicate waltz of fear and faith…Perhaps mum’s biggest fear was the same one I grapple with; the fear that the loneliness that lurks in even the most spirited moments will never depart.
Yet touching those depths, allowing the pain of loneliness to arrive, always leads me closer to God. On that beach the cheer that is the Christ in all the kind people I’ve ever met brought me relief in the most delightful way.
As I stood weeping, it wasn’t my long-lost child who questioned “What’s wrong with you? Why are you crying?” I looked around. There was nobody on the shore. It was the sea. “I’ve been here all this time. I come in. I get close. You run away- up the pebble slopes. I pull away, just surrendering to the great rhythm that regulates us all, and you stand in yearning at the edge of my flow… What is wrong with you? I will never leave you. Look. That little girl there knows!” Further down the beach, there was a child running full throttle towards the receding waves..
A few weeks earlier I had heard my friend Jesus in my mind. He said: “Now that you know that I love you, nobody can ever hurt you again…” I’d been testing that theory and still feeling some fear as I navigated daily ups and downs that come to every soul.
Now, here was God again in the sea, telling me that love, the kind that will cure my loneliness is always available…if I will only open my heart to recognize God in all things instead of seeing treachery. “Manage hope and despair, that’s what we do,” the Spirit added in my imagination.
“Try a little tenderness.” The chorus that is the Trinity cried as the songs of the bible my mother taught me came to mind. When I began studying theology, I mourned the lack in my upbringing of an uplifting foundation of goodness of the kind I was discovering.
But as my regret was softened by the process of considering peace in so many contexts, I began to understand that there is love and tenderness in even the crudest bible. Some of the pop songs that my mum played to ease her pain offered the same truths as biblical passages. “You’re frozen, when your heart’s not open.”- Thank you, Madonna!
I’m discovering psalms in popular culture, now that my awakening to the wisdom of the ancients has helped me find the good Lord in everything.
“Be still.” the sea said before I scrambled back up the pebble beach my face still stinging with tears. Soon thereafter standing in a queue waiting to buy food for my lunch I pondered the majesty and humour the sea had shared with me. Nature, like a kind parent, had saved me again.
When my fellow shoppers became frustrated at our wait, I offered comfort. Someone had done that for me while I was studying theology; I was Impatient in the lines at the fresh markets in Paris…one day a kind lady, seeing my inability to find peace in the wait struck up a conversation. She eased my angst. “C’est bien de savoir patienter” she smiled.
As K.D. Lang sings in her soulful tune Once in a While from the album Watershed:
“Love beyond reason, is a love so hard to find
A love that can season you, make your heart a one-track mind
I will make you happy baby
I will make you smile
I’ll drive you crazy baby
Once, in a while
Once, in a while…”