Not an inch of space was left in the 2008 Nissan Titan. Three teens in the back seat, sitting shoulder to shoulder, truck bed piled high with sleeping bags, a 12-man tent for our 5-person family (because those capacity labels lie!), an EZ-up, and all manner of camping gear – lanterns, portable grill, and stove. Whoever coined the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” was probably looking at me when they said it. The mound of items is strapped down with a cargo net that I hope is strong enough. I glance at the overcast sky, hoping for a clearing of the “June gloom” soon so we can get some surf and sun on this trip.
Every summer we camp at the beach. Booking one of these highly sought-after spots is even more of a hat trick than standing up after sleeping 8 hours on an air mattress in your forties. (iykyk!) Bookings must be secured six months in advance – so mid-December is when the magic happens. Picture me up at the crack of dawn in the dead of winter, multiple devices open to the same website, where I’m pre-logged in, credit card numbers ready to cut/paste, heart racing, a few beads of sweat forming … like I’m about to diffuse a bomb. (Red wire or blue wire?) When I clinch the front-row campsite nanoseconds after it becomes available – beating out the hundreds of other moms doing this exact thing at this exact moment, I picture the crowd going wild. Like the eruption of cheers in the NASA room at the end of the movie Armageddon, when Bruce Willis gave his life to blow up the asteroid headed for Earth. (Sorry for the spoiler, but that movie came out in 1998, so you’ve had ample time to see it). I snap back to reality, where there is actually no uproarious applause, just a sleepy thumbs up from the nearest half-awake family member. And a satisfied, smug smile from me.
And now the day is here, the scurry of packing and planning is done, the traffic jam is in the metaphorical rearview mirror (as is the last-minute stop at the store because we forgot pillows – facepalm!), and I’m breathing the salty air in deep, long gulps. The breeze is chilly but refreshing on my skin. I kick off my Crocs (they were a gift from the teens, don’t judge) and feel the sand on my feet as the smell from someone’s nearby BBQ wafts past me. The sight of the water – its vastness – begins the transforming work of putting my heavy heart in perspective. Perhaps the best therapy in the world is the sight of an expansive blue sea.
The sight, the smell, the feel – these are all great things, life-giving things. But any beach-goer knows that there’s nothing compared to (wait for it)…
Ahhhh … The Sound!
The crescendo and crash of the first foamy wave, followed by a moment of rushing “Whoooooosh” as the water retreats … then the crescendo again. Over and over. It drowns out the ripples of my kids’ laughter as they run around and the jangling of my husband pulling at the first carabiner on the cargo net over our mound of stuff.
The Sound is present in every conversation – like a 6th family member – as we set up our tent.
Daughter: “Do we start with the grey poles or the orange poles?”
Ocean: CRASH! Whoooooosh…
Son: “It’s the grey ones, but the orange ones need to go under them in the middle”
Husband: “I think we should turn it around … isn’t this the front?”
Ocean: CRASH! Whoooooosh…
Me: “No, it has a door on both sides, but this one is the main door; we did it right…”
Daughter: “Can I hammer the stakes?”
Ocean: CRASH! Whoooooosh…
You get the idea. Even as our hands are busy with other things and our eyes are no longer on the water, The Sound is always present, gushing in and out as each memory is made. While my daughter sets up the chairs, my husband makes the fire, and as I drag my mattress to the outlet in the bathroom to be inflated - all the while The Sound of those waves is heard. Later as my son flips the burgers. And when the s’mores sticks come out. And when we crawl in the sleeping bag with the broken zipper. Still, The Sound of the waves about 50 feet away from the tent … rolling crescendo, then CRASH! Whooooooosh… repeat, repeat…
But here’s the thing I learned after spending a few days there. The Sound? The glorious, deafening Sound?
You get used to it.
You almost stop hearing it or thinking about it.
As we were playing games in the tent or flinging the ladder ball ropes, or making baggie omelets (Google this, trust me), the backdrop of ocean sounds became sort of a given. What was a thunderous presence on the first day was demoted to a background hum on the third. Why is that?
On the last day, in the morning mist, I sat facing the shore. With my back to the campsite where the Pop-tarts were toasting over the fire (apologies to my son for getting strawberry instead of cherry, that’s on me…), staring at the waves, I let myself listen to them again. Really listen.
Yep, still the most beautiful sound ever.
Rolling crescendo, then CRASH! Whooooooosh… repeat, repeat…
But that’s not all I heard. I also heard the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The message was one of God’s faithfulness and steadfastness.
Like the waves, God is ever-constant His loving blessings just keep coming. There’s no off-switch. One after another, over and over, He sends out evidence of His forgiveness, acceptance, peace, purpose, and love, washing up on the dry sand of my heart. Even my distractedness can’t stop the waves. Walking the other way, out of earshot, can’t stop them. Storms can’t stop them, even draughts can’t stop them. Any activity of mine is irrelevant and doesn’t affect them one bit.
And if I go a period of time without hearing the waves, it’s not because they aren’t there. The Sound is the same volume and the same frequency, whether I’m paying attention or not. Just like the sound didn’t decrease during my camping trip, but I began to tune it out - so is my awareness of God. I can become desensitized to it, but His faithfulness does not decrease any more than the waves stop crashing. His faithfulness is the soundtrack to my life, and I have different levels of acknowledgment of it, depending on the day. Whether or not I’m listening, He’s always there.
The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty.
Psalm 93:3-4 (NIV)
Maybe you’re like me, gradually taking the waves for granted. Perhaps you’ve served the Lord so long that it’s not as amazing anymore as it once was? Maybe He wants to refocus your attention on Him for a while – to allow the wonder and amazement to resurface. Take a minute to sit and gaze on Him, as if you’re gazing at the vastness of the ocean. Think about all He’s done for you and how His faithfulness has been the soundtrack of your life.
Maybe you’re in a season of not hearing the waves of God’s goodness. Maybe it feels empty and quiet, and you wonder where He is. I have been there – I’ve cried those tears.
But here’s the thing. As I’m writing this, I’m 46 miles inland, where I can no longer hear The Sound…
…but I KNOW it’s out there. I close my eyes and can picture it. I know the surging surf is plunging up and down the coast as we speak. You couldn’t convince me otherwise.
And that’s the faith I’m praying will well up in you.
He is there; He is faithful. I promise. You’ll hear it again. In the meantime, hold on, friend. Trust Him. The one who commands the waves also holds your heart and your life in His hands.
Tricia McCorkle is a Contributor for Humble Faith Ministries, Jesus follower, Southern California wife and mom of three who loves writing, teaching math, singing in choir, and making cakes. Tricia has a passion for all people to know God's love and feel included in circles of faith.