Through the Waters

Through the Waters

by Sarah Shaul

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…. - Isaiah 43: 2 (NIV)

Icy waves beat over me, press me into the coarse sand, pull at my legs and back. Another swell breaks over me; my mouth fills with saltwater and sand. I choke and gasp as the water recedes; the next cold deluge pushes the air from my lungs again.

I have no strength to escape the incessant surge. Hours battling deep water--then churned and slammed by the breakers--has left me battered, weak, exhausted. I can barely lift my head to look longingly at the dry land only a dozen yards away, much less drag myself forward.

I begin to cry at my powerlessness. Hot, salty tears are swept away by another cold wave and absorbed into the endless ocean. I sob as the merciless surf pummels me.

Eventually, my tears subside. I take a deep, shaky breath and wait for another swell to hold me down again.The next wave only washes over  my legs and back, instead of pouring over my head. I exhale and my mind clears: this is only a temporary respite. I haven’t moved, and the sea does not subside out of pity: the tide is going out. It will return, and, if I don’t move, I will again be in its path. But I still do not have any strength. I will be here when it returns.

In the quiet, I notice my surroundings for the first time. The sand, inches from my face, sparkles in the weak sunlight. Further down the beach, sandpipers pursue and escape the seafoam on blurred legs. Far away, gulls swoop over the sand, their harsh calls tempered by the distance. Warmed by the weak sun and lulled by gulls’ cries, I close my eyes. 

I gasp for breath. A chilling wall of water douses over me. It pulls at my breath and body. The tide has come back in. Again, I endure the cold, wet, incessant pounding. The hours slowly pass. I begin to despair. Will it ever stop? Will I ever escape? Hopeless, I sob and sob, my meagre tears unnoticed in the salty sand.

Again, the waves--and my tears--subside. The water laps at my legs, then only my feet. I sigh in exhaustion and relief. How long will I lay here, I ask myself. How many more cycles of this can I bear? I can’t pull myself up but neither can I endure more waves.

Fighting back another surge of tears, I turn my head to observe the stretch of beach beyond my opposite shoulder. To my surprise, a man walks toward me. He lifts His hand in greeting as our eyes meet. He seems neither alarmed nor worried about finding me laying on this empty beach, weak and helpless. In another moment, He reaches my side and kneels down. He places a warm hand on my shoulder. Suddenly aware of my utter helplessness, I bristle at His touch. “Do you need my help?” He asks.

His absurd question annoys me. I barely keep from sneering, “What do you think?” But something in His earnest look stops me. He waits, expectant but patient. I hesitate a moment longer, torn between my pride and my Salvation.

“Yes!” I finally admit. His aid is the only way I can end this painful situation.

With great effort, I push my arm from underneath my body and wait for Him to pull me to my feet. Instead, He kneels in the wet sand and lifts me into His arms, as if I am nothing more than a newborn lamb. With ease, He carries me just beyond the tide line, sets me down to face the water, and sits next to me. We’ve traveled only a few dozen steps. Behind us, the land continues inland beyond sight.

“Only this far?” I ask with disappointment and confusion. I am ready to escape this desolate place.

“Yes.” He confirms. “For today, at least.”

I start to argue how I want to leave, and He is strong enough to carry me farther. He interrupts me, places a gentle hand on my knee. An old scar glistens faintly on the back of His hand.

“Trust me,” He says.

I look away and watch the waves rush in and out. Was it only moments before I was under their power? They are harmless now; He has carried me beyond their grasp.

“I trust You,” I realize, looking back into His face. He smiles. We continue to sit, shoulder to shoulder, looking out at the rolling sea.