Often times when I’m stressed by many concerns, I’m comforted by Biblical images: God as a hen, sheltering her children under the safety of her wings. God as a strong tower, a refuge, and then my favorite, “God is a rock that is higher than I.”
Generally, when I picture the rock image I see it high above the stormy seas of life, safe from the foaming current below. But last week that changed for me. I had the privilege of spending five days at an oceanfront house on California’s northern coast. I grew up near the ocean, but my beaches were sandy and flat, perfect for a swim or some light body surfing. This coast in no way resembled the ocean of my youth. This coastline was lined with cliffs that dropped down into a raging rock-strewn sea. It was powerful, beautiful, terrifying.
At one point my friends and I ventured down a cliff to the sea at high tide. I found a rock that was just at the edge of the waves and climbed up on top. It wasn’t a huge rock, maybe eight feet tall, but it was higher than I. The experience of sitting on this rock was in no way related to my biblical images of a tall rock above the fray. This rock was IN the fray. Huge waves came rolling in, one after the other. They all felt powerful and threatening. They broke before they got to me, but not before I clung to the rock in frightened anticipation that they wouldn’t. I have never experienced the roaring sound, the rushing water, the huge power of the surf so close.
And I was reminded of that plea from Psalm 61:2, “Place me on a rock that is higher than I.” It made more sense than my previous image. When we face difficult times, we often feel that our head is barely above the water, that we are threatened on all sides, scared to death that we might not make it out alive. But we do because we ARE on a rock that is high enough. Perhaps we’d like a higher rock; I know I would. I would love a huge rock far above the rough water. But I guess the Psalmist knew that just a small rock, just high enough, would keep him safe.
It took me a while to trust that rock that day on the beach. To see wave after wave break before it, aware it was high tide, I realized the waves weren’t going to get worse than they were. I could relax and take in the power and the beauty of the fight around me, resting on the rock. It was frightening, thrilling and beautiful.
Sometimes our rocks are all we have to cling to during difficult times. As I sat on my rock, I was reminded of my friend Edie. She was fighting a losing battle with cancer and her daughter-in-law, a fantastic artist, painted a picture of her clinging to a rock that was just above the thrashing storm. Sometimes we can only cling. And sometimes we are still carried over to the other side clinging to our trusted rock.
It’s not a safe, calm picture, but it is a realistic one. The Rock will hold us. Carry us. Sustain us. Even if it is the last thing we do.
Are you being tossed by waves right now? How are you finding purchase on The Rock?
What is helping to sustain you as you weather the storm?