Have you ever been knocked off your feet by a huge wave? I clearly remember that happening years ago when I braved these huge post-storm breakers on a family holiday in Florida – I can still feel the panic! Suddenly the exhilaration of the wind and spray is submerged in fear and salt water as the shingle bruises your shins and the undertow whips away your balance; the adrenaline rush turns from excitement to self-preservation as you fight to find your feet and get air back into your chest. Water goes up your nose and you stagger to the beach, glad to be alive. It certainly made me feel small, weak and old – and put me off ever trying to bathe in the Pacific again when it is in tumult… not that we get much chance to dip in that cold, clear ocean with it’s irregular wave patterns these days. It was a good and necessary reminder that the sea is always in charge!
It’s not quite as extreme as that experience, but I do feel I have been knocked down by a succession of big waves in the last fortnight. This time perhaps it feels more like the tidal bore of a major river: the water has gone over my head a couple of time and I am left hanging onto a trailing branch trying to regain the bank. ‘All your waves and breakers have swept over me’ mourns the psalmist (Psalm 42v7) – as the ‘waterfalls’ of God fall on his head and their waters ‘roar and foam’. Torrents of water are symbolic of trouble – events that sweep through and threaten to drown us – emotional and even physical turmoil… ‘the cords of death entangled me, the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me'(Psalm 18v4). In Revelation, even the Risen Jesus’ voice is likened to ‘the sound of many waters’ denoting His power and overwhelming greatness – like the volume of a massive waterfall subduing every other utterance. How small and powerless we are when faced with such forces… and life can seem like that at times.
Only 2 weeks ago we were full of the joys of our holiday – a bit battered on our delayed return (see Driving lessons) but ready to feast on the memories for the rest of our lives – and especially for what is left of the summer! Indeed I have been gradually editing my 1500 photos ever since, wanting to produce manageable albums – and I have been eagerly waiting for the right time to share some of the joy and beauty in a blog post or two.
Enter the first big wave – the Mail on Sunday article (Spotlight on Sam son). Instead of being able to enjoy the after-taste of France and Italy we were instead swept into a week of media madness, coping with small errors and nasty web comments, emails and invitations from interested parties and the general emotional upheaval as our story came out into public view. Perhaps there couldn’t have been a better time for this to happen and I am not saying it was all bad, but it did take away from our holiday a lot.
So I tried to keep myself on track with the ‘8 out of 10 cats game’ (let the reader understand!) OK, let the Mail article be the headline story, but there were other important topics of the week as well: the Driving lessons story was in fact next on the list and it eventually got its air-time out of sheer determination! Because the second big wave had by then gone over all our heads – the outbreak of riots on the streets.
This seems to have affected me a lot – and I don’t think I am the only one. One report talked about an atmosphere of fear that had taken over in many places – and this even seemed to impinge on people who live nowhere near the affected city centres. As I said in writing about it yesterday, the strong leadership of government has restored a sense of security again – but the sadness at the degradation of a section of our society, the recklessness of these young people whose lives should be full of hope and promise – that has stayed. I do feel sad – yes, about my own son, but also about all these sons and daughters in our land.
So – what was that 3rd important topic going to be? Well – the joy and beauty of the holiday, of course, the stunning scenery, amazing art, incredible architecture, culture and history. But it has almost slipped away! I am holding onto the branch but my grip is weakening: I am sodden and tired from these ‘waves and breakers’ and ready to float off downstream! Quick! Before it’s too late, I have to make the choice for joy again!
Joy is so often a choice and with the right attitude I can help to make it happen: ‘count your blessings one by one’? – yes, gratitude is the attitude! And here is a visual aid I saw in Italy to encourage us to take care of joy 🙂 Just turn on the fan and blow away the cobwebs, face into the breeze and let it dry you off, sodden one! I refuse to lose the blessings of our adventure: I will write about it and share the beauty I saw – despite the gloom and hard work of life in England this month, despite the encroaching autumn and lack of sunshine, despite the emotional challenges. If I don’t take care of my joy it will all be washed away… and yet joy can strengthen me and rescue me from the torrents of despair as I make up my mind to rejoice in the good and all that is life-giving in our existence. As we get older that can often take the form of revisiting memories and experiences I guess – though there is much joy to be found too in looking forward to things and nurturing hope: looking up is, after all, the way to keep one’s head above water!
So this weekend, before it is too late, before the handhold slips away, before the memories fade too much and the troubles of life take over again, I am going to take care of my joy – look to the good and ‘choose life’ that I may live.