Running through the small coastal town of Port Edward on the south coast of South Africa is a real treat. The road wends its way between the sea and small old style homes that have been here for years, sporting interesting signs such as "Likable Local".
Soon the paved road gives way to a dirt track framed on both sides by cool, shady trees that almost touch each other above the road.
The moods of the Indian Ocean on this south coast of South Africa are as changing and unpredictable as the moods of a male elephant - one moment calm and serene and the next wild and dangerous. Today we are rewarded with a silky smooth sea that looks like God has turned it to glass. Beautifully formed waves grow slowly and perfectly as they approach the beach, rising in grandeur before crashing down in a spray of foam as they reach the shore and roll up the sand.
We need no second invitation and quickly doff our running gear and race towards the cool, silky embrace of the sea. The chilled liquid pleasure envelopes us and instantly washes away the heat of our run. It's invigorating, exhilarating.
Yet it's deeper water we seek, so we move further out into the inviting embrace of the ocean - drawn by the siren's offer of cool, soft refreshing water. The waves here are larger, as they grow in stature on their journey towards the beach.
Now that it's deep we watch carefully as each wave approaches. There's a choice - attempt to go over the wave or choose to go under it. As the wave approaches a quick decision is made. I'm going over - it's less effort and less scary. My wife however decides to go under it.
I push off the ground below as I attempt to launch myself over the wave. The churning wave, intent on driving everything before it to the sea bed, pulls powerfully at me as I crest it. Even as I drop down its back it reaches out with its powerful wake dragging me towards the beach before it finally looses its grip on me. Wiping my eyes clear of the salty water streaming down my face I notice my wife calmly bobbing several meters ahead of me as if the wave had never existed.
Before long the twin sister of the previous wave has arrived to check on things and is rising quickly before us. It's glistening silky form once more belying its awesome power. As it hurries towards us I can see again we must make a choice - over or under. This time I take a deep breath and dive under the wave just as it arrives. My body slices through the water and I can feel the large wave rolling above me. For a moment it's quiet and cool as all that I can hear are bubbles, and then I break through the surface into the warm welcoming sun again. The wave has moved far past me, it's powerful grip gone and I'm bobbing in the silky smooth water watching and waiting for the next wave to arrive.
"I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me." (2 Samuel 22:4-5)
It just seems untenable that we should go under the waves, for then we would lose control, lose sight of what is happening, and possibly even lose our lives. Yet is this not what faith in God calls us to do. The Psalmist makes an interesting observation as he floats in the sea of life facing the endless onslaught of waves...
"Deep calls unto deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your waves and billows have gone over me. (Psalm 42:7)
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly. And he said:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
‘Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me. (Jonah 2:1-3)
And so too we face the waves. This is no easy thing, yet when we struggle in our own strength to overcome them, we are slowly driven back, slowly weakened, slowly overcome. Yet when, in faith, we do what to the human mind seems illogical - we submit our lives fully to God - we die to self, no longer breathing - we will rise again, not in our own strength, but in the power of the Spirit of God, a power that gives life to the lifeless and hope to the hopeless. This is only possible if we die to self so that we might live in Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)