In her book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist talks about a sea-change. She borrows from Shakespeare and I’m borrowing it from her now because I think it is so fitting for my time here in Hawaii – my own sea-change – happening right in the midst of living in the sea. In her book, she explains it like this,
“The word sea-change is from Shakespeare, from The Tempest: a man is thrown into the sea, and under the water he is transformed from what he was into something entirely new, something “rich and strange.” The beautiful and obvious connection, of course: baptism. We are tipped backward into the water, and raised into new life. We leave behind the old—the sin, the regret, the failings, and we rise out of the water cleansed, made new. A sea-change if there ever was one. This is the story of my sea-change—the journey from one way of living to another.”
There are times in our lives when there is a distinct change – we notice we’ve gone from one way of living to another, like Shauna says. It’s the end of one way of thinking, of being, to another, entirely new way. I can think of a couple of other sea-changes in my life. Once as I neared my 30th birthday. And now again out here in the ocean over the last two years. My sea-change has caused me to leave behind some old ways, some old thoughts, some old habits of being, and take on new. Marriage has changed me. Losing a baby has changed me. Living away from my family and old friends has changed me. Being in a new place and a new culture has changed me. And it’s all encompassed in this time here in Hawaii.
The verse God put on my heart as he drew me out here two years ago is found in Psalm 139. It reads,
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
Did you know Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world? I didn’t know this until recently, but you can certainly feel the truth of it when you’re on these islands. We’re 1,000 miles from the nearest island chain and 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. So in truth, I have been literally dwelling in the remotest part of the sea. And you know what I have found? He is near. Perhaps even more near than I had previously felt.
I think it’s because we live in the middle of the ocean that songs about God and water cause emotion to well up in me. Songs where they talk about his love being like a wild ocean or how he holds back the waters or asks us to walk on them with him. This lyric especially gets me , “You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.” Now I know they’re meaning that metaphorically, but I listen to that song each time I take off on a flight to this little island in the midst of thousands of miles of untamed ocean because I really feel that’s what God was doing in my heart two years ago - calling me out beyond the shore. And now I’ve been here in the middle of the ocean experiencing my own sea-change.
I’ve found that sometimes he has to draw us out so he can pull us in close. So he can change us. Mold us. Teach us. Show us that he loves us in new and beautiful ways. He might not draw you out to the ocean specifically. He might draw you out right in your own neighborhood. Your own school. Your own friend group. Your own workplace. He’ll call you to new places all the time if you let him. If you give God the space to move, he’ll certainly walk in and fill it up in ways entirely unseen and unexpected. Have you experienced this in your life? A sea-change of your own? Have you given Him enough space to move and breathe fresh life into your bones? To call you out to a new way of life? If you let him, he’ll change you from the inside out. That’s what he wants to do - to fill up all your empty places and refresh your soul. Sometimes he just has to draw you out so you can hear his still small voice.
Maybe that’s the biggest problem - we don’t take enough time to be still and listen. We’re too busy. We’re moving quickly and on to the next thing before we even have a chance to think about or reflect on the last. That’s one of the biggest things I left behind when I moved here - the work of being busy. I learned to slow, to be still, to listen. To savor the small and often unnoticed. Because God does not call us to busy. He calls us to rest. He calls us to abide. In her newsletter earlier this week, Ruth Chou Simons reminded me that, “to abide is to enter into His presence and to linger longer.” Linger with Him. Linger in the moment. Our scrolling thumbs and four second attention spans think we don’t have time to linger. We take in information at such a rapid pace, the pinball is bouncing off all corners of our brain all the time. But there’s a sweetness that seeps into our hearts when we linger a little longer in the presence of God. I’ve learned that out here.
Aaron and I will takeoff from this island for the last time in just a few more days. But I’m going home different. God brought me out to the remotest part of the sea to show me that even here he has not left me, forgotten me, or asked me do any of this alone. What patience and love and promises fulfilled I have seen while we lived here in the ocean. I go home now with a new sense of who I am and who God created me to be. I’m going home with a fresh desire to speak truth, to live boldly, to step out in faith, to be in tune with what God is asking and the ways he is moving in and around me. My own sea-change has caused me to begin a new way of living – one of reliance and trust on the One who can handle the weight of it all. Of being still and listening. A way of life where there is time to linger a little longer. And that’s what I hope for all of us - to experience a kind of change that leads to more of Him.