Surviving the Sea
“Curiosity killed the cat” is an aphorism that warns us to stay safe at home. It suggests it is dangerous to dream, wander, and explore. All exploration is a call to enter mystery that may intrigue but also harm. We know the greatest mystery is the thin realm that divides what can be seen from what is unseen. Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s personhood and the nature of his being can be understood from what is made. We are to explore what is seen and stumble toward an understanding of what can’t be held or controlled. This is the most dangerous exploration on earth. As wild as that journey is, it is equally mysterious and dangerous to comprehend the realm of the seen.
Recently I watched The Secrets of Whales on Disney+ and was mesmerized by the brilliance of whales, navigating different oceans of our earth as they migrate from one hemisphere to another. How do they know where to traverse, and how did they learn how to be cunning and thwart their enemies? It turns out that the matriarchal grandmother chooses her strongest granddaughter to learn the skills necessary for the entire pod to survive. The granddaughter needs to practice, over and over again, the songs and maneuvers of her pod that are required to follow, heed, praise, and lament across the oceans. These are intricate lessons passed down through the generations, and if not mastered by the granddaughter, mean the demise of the pod.
Friends, we are talking about a huge mammal that has the ability to speak a complex language to instruct, reprimand, play, and praise in order for her granddaughter to take care of the collective. How is it possible that I am nearing seventy and just found this out? Every time we discover something more about the intricacies of the world, it is meant to disrupt and reform our grasp of reality and expand our understanding of the heart of our Creator God. It is an invitation from him to ask, seek, and knock. In other words, and invitation to explore.
It is, in fact, the heart that is the most dangerous ground to explore. As I age, I realize how few people ask me questions. Even my family seems secure in what they know about me without needing to ask any more. It was the same with my mom and dad. I did not venture into the perilous territory of their hearts.
It’s nearing fifteen years since my parents died, and today I have hundreds of questions that I wished that I had asked. Hundreds! What kept me from being an explorer of their hearts? Why didn’t I ask about their heartaches and their dreams? Why did I not ask about the specifics regarding the days leading up to either of my grandparents early deaths, when my parents were only children? Why did it seem off-limits?
To enter the domain of the heart is to enter waters that are complex, full of blindness, deception, and impossible to soothe on one’s own. But God gives us a new heart and makes it accessible to know and be known. However, we have to ask, seek, and knock. In other words: explore.
We need to venture into dangerous places that don’t have simple answers or quick solutions.
We ask, seek, and, when we get close to what we have been looking for, knock, not knowing if what we desire will be given.
My grandmother failed to enter my mother’s heart and mine. My mother refused to wander into realms that made her uncomfortable. I know why (to some degree) I didn’t ask questions of her—I knew that asking her to open her history, let alone her heart, would lead to disaster. Yet, my granddaughters are wild, glorious creatures who will not let me swim in safe waters. I am choosing to teach songs of lament and praise to all three of them. I will teach them to explore their longings and rejoice in the rescues of a savior who sees and hears the cries of their shipwrecked hearts. May they hear His beckoning to explore the hearts of others as well as their own.
I want to be like the wise matriarch of a pod and live the mystery of life because I have tasted the tears of God in my shipwrecked heart. I will trace the unknown through the rhythms of the known. I will engage the depths of darkness so that I can swim in the sweet waters of life. I can be no less and perhaps no more than a wise whale who sings the language of the heart to prepare others to explore the mysteries of God.