I grew up in California (though now I live in west Michigan, a thing some people can’t wrap their heads around). For the first 21 years of my life, I was always somehow near the Pacific Ocean. Even if we had to travel an hour or so as a family, we were near the Pacific. Between the ages of birth and 7 and again from junior high until my third year at community college, I lived between the mountains and the Pacific, usually not more than a half hour drive if at that.
I remember as a kid spending hours at the ocean during the day. The waves crashing on shore, the smell of salt water in the air. We’d play this game wherein we’d stand firm in the sand, digging in our toes and heels and waiting for the waves to crash. Some we’d try to jump over, others we’d try to withstand the hit of the waves against our shins and torsos. Sometimes we’d venture out past the crashing waves upon the beach and swim in the deeper waters. I did the same while between junior high and my last year in community college.
Two things I learned and was taught quite early–Never turn your back on the ocean and always keep an eye on a fixed point on shore. The Pacific is gorgeous and beautiful. It is majestic and amazing. There were times where I’d spend hours just sitting on the beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore, looking out to see ever expanse of the water. I would sit in awe of what lay before me. But the Pacific is also wild and untamed. You don’t turn your back on it. The waves crash at different intervals and recede back at differing speeds. The waves come in in different sizes and heights, some ankle biters, others could crush you depending on the weather. No, never turn your back on the ocean. Always keep an eye on it for it is wild and untamed.
But I also learned to keep my eye on a fixed point on land. At first it was my mom sitting on shore with all our stuff, and later in life, it was just my stuff. But I kept an eye on where it was at so I would know where I was at. The ocean ever so slowly moves you down shore. You don’t know it at first because you’re so focused on the water, the waves, the fun. But it happens if you’re not paying attention to where you’re at. When you keep your eyes focused on a fixed point, you know how far you’ve drifted and how far you need to walk back.
My kiddos have grown up in the Midwest. They’ve only been to the ocean a few times with the last time being three years ago. They don’t know these rules. They don’t know how important these rules are to living life itself away from the ocean.
I had a chance to teach them these rules earlier in August. We went camping along the lake shore of Lake Michigan and spent some time swimming in its waters. It isn’t the ocean (no offense to Lake Michigan, but it really isn’t the Pacific at all) but it make will do. The small waves of the sometimes clear but usually murky waters crash on shore ranging from ankle biters to sometimes hitting my knees. They kiddos were in delight though the water was extremely cold.
As I looked out across the expanse in front of me and know that Wisconsin and not Japan and the rest of Asia lay somewhere in the distance, I for a moment imagined myself at the Pacific. It was then I realized that my kiddos needed to learn the rules even here. The waves crashed at differing intervals, the water receded at different speeds, and the water slowly moved us down shore. I taught them about not turning your back to the water, and keeping their eyes on a fixed point on shore (my wife and our stuff, she was the only smart one not venturing into the very cold water). I explained to them the reasons why.
Just the other day, as things were hectic in the house, I backed up and hit the counter. It smarted a bit. My daughter looked at me and said, “Dad, always keep on eye behind you, and one eye ahead.” I smiled. She listened. She taught me.
As I ponder this (and this post is getting long, sorry) I think of the spiritual life and journey with Jesus. Always keep on eye behind, never turning your back on the untamed wild world and one eye ahead, fixed and focused on Jesus.
I love what the author of Hebrews writes
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Where are you at right now in this world? Where are you at on your own spiritual journey? All around you there are things that are wild and untamed. Gorgeous, beautiful, amazing, but untamed and wild. Keep an eye on it. Don’t turn your back on it. Don’t let it entangle you or snare you up or knock you down. And don’t let it take you away either. There are so many times we get taken away from where we need to be not all at once, but a step at a time. To prevent this, keep your eyes focused on a fixed point–Jesus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Keep him your focus.
On your spiritual journey, watch your back, keep focused on front. Run the race, walk forward focused on Jesus. When you do, you’re able to stay where you need to be. How can you keep focused on Jesus and not let things in this world trip you up?