She had her little four-almost-five-year old hand clinging to my own. Together we stood knee deep in water with feet and toes planted in the sand staring out at the vast Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps I should rephrase that. Planted does not precisely describe our footing. Because with every wave, the sand shifted. Together we wobbled as we were lobbed by the waves. She took each wave with gusto and giggles in defiance of the waves. She even dared to lift one foot out of the water. With the confidence of a great blue heron, she stood there receiving wave after wave. Sometimes with her free foot, she attempted to kick the water right back at the ocean as if to say, "Take it back! It’s yours!"
Suddenly, a new dance began. With the next wave, she spread her arms open wide and delightedly shouted, “I’m living my dream life!” And then the next wave, “I’m living my dream life!” And then again and again and again, she would open her arms, leap for joy, and holler and grin, “I’M LIVING MY DREAM LIFE!”
I soaked it all in.
God has taught me so many lessons through motherhood and now “nana-hood.” Last week I basked in the luxury of a beach vacation with family. There I was hand in hand with my grand-daughter shouting "I’m living my dream life!" from the top of her lungs. I am blessed.
If I'm perfectly honest, the dream life for me is not in the waves, but found underneath a beach umbrella sitting on a chair while reading a book. It's dry. It's stable. It's safe. I’d also prefer each of my children and grandchildren to be in that "safe" place rather than in the waves. Waves offer the complete opposite experience. Waves are wet, create instability and feel very unsafe.
I associate waves with trials. Similar to waves, trials are a given. Trials roll in continuously, one right after another. Both waves and trials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some small and some big. Here was my granddaughter in the midst of the waves proclaiming this to be her dream life.
Could waves and trials actually point us to the dream life?
What surprised me is how the Bible came alive in that moment. God brought so many verses to mind, a very real benefit of knowing and enjoying Him through His Word. Yes, knowing Him happens in those quiet moments of daily study, but our knowledge and experience with God accumulates over time. The longer and further we go in soaking up God’s Word, the quicker we learn to laugh at the waves of this earth. Why? Because God is steadfast in His love and faithful to His promises.
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Yes, in this world we will have wave after wave of trouble. Yet, Jesus has overcome. Therefore He encourages us to "take heart!" To hold onto Him with bravery and courage.
This is not my natural bent. After all, I prefer the beach chair under the umbrella, a place that feels safe, secure and uncomplicated. Trials don’t fall into that category. Can I really receive the next trial with gusto as if “I’m living the dream life?! Everything in me says, "no." But could this be where the rubber meets the road for our faith?
James tells us to go ahead and categorize trials as the dream life:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… James 1:2
Count it. Reckon it. Consider it all joy. All joy. We don’t incur just one trouble. Peter, like James, points to the variety of troubles:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. I Peter 1:6
As the trials come, we seemingly end up with a whole portfolio of troubles in various shapes and sizes that test our faith. Trials come relentlessly, wave after wave in all shapes and sizes. Yet, both Peter and James tell us “In this you rejoice!” or “Count it all joy!” The message is the same. Categorize the trials - the waves - in the dream life column.
Jesus tells us, “I have overcome the world.”
Peter tells us that Jesus is the Living Hope in the midst of being grieved by various trials.
James says count trials as joy… these prove our faith.
Jesus, James, Peter all point to this same idea. Wave after wave of trials will come, but with Jesus we can rejoice and shout, “I’m living my dream life!”
For me, this is much easier said than done.
In the midst of cancer, I’m living my dream life?
In the midst of job loss, I’m living my dream life?
In the midst of broken relationships, I’m living my dream life?
In the midst of death, I’m living my dream life?
There on the beach I pondered.
I didn’t have a Bible on my lap, but I did have the cumulative effect of knowing and enjoying God through various parts of Scripture. Other verses come rolling in that reminded me Who Jesus is.
Together in Psalms, we learned that God rules the waves:
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. Psalm 89:9
And in our study of Mark, we rode in the boat with Jesus and His disciples. In essence, we watched Him still the waves:
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. Mark 4:37
The disciples panicked. (I take comfort that their natural bent was panic too!) They didn’t recognize that God was in the boat with them until He woke up:
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39
To be clear, neither Jesus, James nor Peter refer to the trial or the brokenness or the death as the dream life. Rather as James explains, the trials test our faith. The trials perfect and complete our faith, a faith that comes through Jesus. Jesus is the dream life. He is the Life-Giver. And He has made me His own.
Paul tells us that. In our Philippians study, he said it so succinctly when he declared: "For me, to live is Christ!" (Philippians 1:21) Whether in the midst of waves or under the beach umbrella, to live is Christ. Period. Such that Paul goes on to say:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! Philippians 4:4
I don’t have the privilege of sticking my toes in the sand and being knee deep in the ocean with my grand-daughter every day. But I do have the privilege of owning a Bible. Every single day I have the opportunity and privilege to open God’s Word in order to know and enjoy Him and His goodness. Here’s where I cling to God’s hand. Wherever I turn in the Bible, I am reminded that He already has a firm grasp of mine. He is standing there in the midst of the waves with me. The more I seek to know and enjoy Him through His Word, a cumulative effect happens. My faith solidifies. He reveals Who He is. Through the promises of His Word, God sings, “You are lovable. You are valuable. You are forgivable. You are changeable. And you are never alone. You see and feel the waves. But I am here. I have a hold of you and I will never let you go.”
Knowing God through the Bible changes everything. Like a great blue heron, I learn little by little to stand confident in the waves of trouble as they come. Like a little girl in the midst of shifting sands, clinging to a hand bigger than mine, I can rejoice, “I am living my dream life!”
For God, You are with me and You will never let me go.
Lord, Thank You for Your presence. Grant us confidence and joy no matter the storms, the winds and the waves. Please remind my dear ones who are facing trouble, that in the midst of the waves,You indeed have a hold on us and will never let go.