As a lover of lonely places to walk, think and find beauty, I gravitate to Ecola Point, a prominence several hundred feet above the restless seas of the northern Oregon coast. There are excellent paths, some lightly trod; and this day I followed one of them down to a lovely curving beach populated by no one other than myself. Far out to sea, breakers pounded which carried their energy across the sand flats in fast, flat waves, ten to fifteen inches high, which gently drizzled into the sand around my feet. I didn’t care that I had forgotten my camera; no frame could have captured the interplay of motion and silence that was my world for an hour of late afternoon. I removed my shoes and placed them on a big rock, remembering that there are such things as tides; and I walked to the far side of the beach to perch upon a rock and watch the waves zoom by.
As I sat spellbound, I began to notice that the longest-reaching waves were coming up on dry sand. Tide must be coming in; time to get back to those shoes! It was more difficult than I expected, since water now covered the sand and waves were crashing against the smooth black stones which covered the upper part of the beach. I made a dash for it between each wave, and was doing well when a log intervened. Having heard about logs being lifted up and crushing people, I chose to run way around it on the sand, keeping an eye on it continuously.
I lost my footing as a large wave came up behind me, soaking me, propelling me into the log, which shuddered ominously. I hobbled up the field of black stones, disgusted that my binoculars, were now fouled with salty sand. The rock on which my shoes were waiting was totally submerged; shoe and sock were somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. As I stumbled towards the path, I noticed for the first time large rocks strewn on the hill at least eight feet above the plane of the beach, and understood.
A tsunami may be expected after an earthquake; a seiche, which multiplies wave motion across narrower bodies of water, may be looked for after a storm; the tides rise and fall according to the gravity of sun and moon, and thus are predictable for centuries. The “rogue wave” is a different character. All across the ocean, waves are generated in many locations - by winds blowing in different directions, by coasts and seismic action. Most of the time the energy which contributes to a set of waves evens out by the time it reaches the shore; but once in awhile, a wave from Japan, another from Hawaii, another from a storm off California - all three meet at the same place. Among a set of three-footers gently combing the coast, a high-energy six-footer appears from “nowhere.” A rogue wave.
We are quick to describe rogue waves as chance events, “freaks of nature” - but they are actually no more than the sum of many small waves whose origins are completely understandable. We simply do not have the mathematics to account for them, so we call them “random.” But they are not random to the One who created the seas.
I am a piano accompanist and sometimes worship leader. I study the waves which make up the ebb and flow of the intensity of worship. I love those times when a great wave of love, glory and worship rolls over our congregation. How I would like to recapture such a wave for the next service! But such special events of the Spirit are elusive, as Jesus counseled Nicodemus. We may sit over our Starbucks on Monday morning and try to figure out how to make the best conditions for the next wave, or how to channel its energy - yet we barely understand what happens when God “moves.” I have a feeling that a thundering waves of worship is the sum of little waves - a reconciliation, a healing, a gift to a hungry family, a song, a sudden understanding of a Scripture. Sometimes a body comes to church on a wave crest; all I have to do is sound the first chord, and whoosh! - off we go. Other times we’re in a trough, and everything is madly rowing up the side of a wave.
Certainly more reconciliations, more healings, more generosity, more of God’s Word in us will bring bigger waves; but there is also the factor of the Holy Spirit of God simply blowing upon us. His Spirit acts upon “water” in different ways. Sometimes He calms the waves, and makes the sea as smooth as glass. Sometimes He comes bubbling up from within, as from a Perrier spring. And the wave has a purpose beyond excitement - it surges up on the dry riverbeds of our lives and brings life. Isaiah writes, “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
But this one thing I know - you don’t get big curlers breaking on the shore if there is no ocean behind them, an ocean that is continually blown upon by winds over all the world. “My words are spirit... the Spirit brings life.” When we act according to the word of Jesus, that breeze begins to blow, causing a small swell on that great ocean. We don’t know how it will combine with other swells or upon which shore it will break; but we do know that nothing we do, not even giving a child a glass of water, will fail to have the effect God desires.
Live and work and walk in the Spirit today, and don’t give a care if the waves break on your shore or off Zanzibar. God has others all over the world making waves - let’s make some of our own!