The world, though fallen, still bears witness to its Creator. To those who know God through Jesus Christ, creation has even more to say. In this essay, Andy Prideaux reflects on a visit to the ocean and rejoices in its mysterious power to bring him out of his own thoughts and into the light, wind and water of the One who made it and his own life.

Can you imagine? You’ve walked down to the beach, to the bottom of the cliff where the hills roll in and rise out of the sea. It’s an ocean beach; beautiful, immense and dangerous. You hear the wave-wash over pebbles and shells. You go in. The first lap of waves is noisy, busy. They say, ‘Hey look at me, I’m a wave!’—like a child so excited they can ride their two-wheeler bike. You dive under into the icy next set. You think you can’t hear anything; but actually you hear everything. You hear water inside your ears—well you think you do, but it’s also outside and you can’t really tell the difference.

You’re not alone. But you knew even before you saw anybody else, that you are never alone.

Further out now. You feel the power of the ocean, you hear a whale call—a real whale call. You see other people further down the beach and far out into the water. They are too far to wave or call out to, but they are in the ocean with you. You’re not alone. But you knew even before you saw anybody else, that you are never alone. The water buoying you up reminds you; it helps you feel the deep-down buoying up; inside your mind, in your heart in your whole body, and outside all around you. It is all around you, like the grace that comes to you from within and without; from before and after:

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,|
And our eternal home:

Beneath the shadow of thy throne,
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.*

Diving down deeply, and rising up again, the water had entombed you, but now  pours off you. The last washes whipping off the ends of your hair with each droplet a tiny world shim-shimmering in the sunlight. ‘It’s getting blowy now!’  people are saying. The wetness flicks, flecks and flies off quickly. You remember: ‘I went down and I was buried.’ But now you have come up for air; you take your first breath; ahhhh. Reborn from the sea, you were already reborn. You are alive, really alive; bound in love by Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. He is real flesh-blood-Spirit. Eternal Life: He is your life (John 10:10).

The waves pummel you; they punch you in the face and suck the breath out of your lungs. Relentless in their violence, they pound you down again. Beneath the waves you tear your shins on reef, and bruise them on rock. You are bleeding; it hurts, it stings. But the same salt-water is cleaning you up; washing everything bad away and keeping everything good. After a while you forget about the scratches and their sting and the bruises and their throb. How long ago was that? You can’t remember. It is left behind. The sand on your body doesn’t annoy you anymore. It’s ok, you’re meant to be sandy and scratchy—for a while.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.*

You make it back to the shore, and walk, crunch crunch, up the beach. You pick up a shell and listen. You can hear it! The ocean is inside; and it’s out there, laid out before you, stretching out further than any eye can see. You grab your towel and wrap it tightly round your body. The wind is moving all around you; blowing through your hair, drying out your nose, and your ears and your toes. Where does the wind-breath come from? You look back out over the water. A great ocean-going gull is caught up in zephyrs; in air swirling high high up above you, all around you. It surfs the sky, shooting off waves made of air; buoyed up by wind; gliding on freedom tracks. Where does the wind-breath come from? (John 3:5-8)

The Maker’s hands that formed you, hold you up, hold you near and hold you fast.

There are waters which are gathered up above and there are waters which are gathered in below. You give thanks for all of it;  for everything, for your life and all life. The Maker’s hands that formed you, hold you up, hold you near and hold you fast. ‘Jesus Christ is Lord over all.’ Yes! ‘To the glory of God the Father.’ The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He lives in you, and you live in Him. Born again and forgiven; set free from dark tombs on Spirit tracks of freedom.You are alive, really alive and you know that you cannot die (John 11:25-26). On dry ground now, you’re walking, you don’t stop. You keep moving; you will answer to the call of the deep.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guide while troubles last,
And our eternal home!*


* ‘O God our help in ages past,’  Isaac Watts (1674-1748), 1717