Retrieving Treasures Amidst Crashing Waves
Updated: Apr 20, 2021
I watched a black lab chase a bright yellow tennis ball into the ocean waves over the weekend. The sea was choppy, no more than usual, the dog energetic, no more or less than typical and the beach still and steady, seeming to be its normal sturdy self. The dog's owner tossed the ball into the ocean with a ball throwing contraption, placed her hands behind her back and stood still watching her beloved canine wrestle the cresting crashing waves. He leapt, he swam, he fought the waves. He retreated, he wagged his tail, he looked to his owner for reassurance when the ball seemed to be drifting beyond the point where the stronger bigger waves could assist its journey back into the dog's mouth.
I am sure the dog could just feel that ball squishing beneath his jaws with its familiar salty taste filling his mouth while the smell satisfied his canine olfactory genius. It kept him focused on the prize. He also had conquered this feat many times previous as I happen to know that he and his owner live at the beach and this is a daily ritual.
The dog eventually retrieved the ball but not before lots of back and forth to his owner. He would pounce on the waves, realize their power over him, retreat and skip a little in the wake before lifting his little head to look at his owner's eyes. She was still, strong and gave him the nod or word that he needed to keep going. She was patient. She was unaffected by the waves threatening to take her little buddy's ball away into the ocean abyss forever. When the dog finally got the ball, bystanders cheered as he ran straight to his master and gave it to her to throw into the ocean again. What trust.
This gives me great pause when I consider the parallel to my past year with my children. How was she so calm, so steady, so sure that her pup would eventually get the ball? Because, she had seen it happen time and time again. She had the experience to know that though the ocean so large, strong and unpredictable, the little yellow tennis ball had far more of a chance of reaching the shore than it did drifting off to sea.
That confidence is what I did not have this past year - experience to guide me through a pandemic and all of the chaos that accompanied it. My kids (and me) tossed into the sea with waves far larger and powerful than typical - would we be able to make it to the shore? Would the pandemic ocean pull us beyond our ability to return to what we once knew? At times, I have been more like the ball facing the choppy water. Other times, I have been more like the dog invested in rescuing my three kids from their own choppy waters and pull of the Covid-19 current. I have been moored, only by my Heavenly Father, the one who stands strong, assured and patient in every storm with the experience that I don't have to know that in the end, all will be well - whether the ball returns those 99 times or the one time it drifts out to sea.
One of the hardest things about this past year has been the discrepancy of experience each family has had and the attempt of our culture to capture everyone in the same toxically positive boat. Equally as difficult has been the uncharacteristic expectations placed on working parents of school aged children.
Being the steady for my kids has been hard. Being a cheerleader for my kids has been hard. Being an advocate for my kids has been hard. Doing all of this while working as a nurse practitioner has been hard. Trusting God to guide me in the parenting, schooling, coordinating, providing, emotionally supporting roles of parenting through a pandemic has been hard. And not because I don't trust Him, but because I have never been to this ocean's edge with these waves while being expected to hold it all together as calmly and patiently as my little canine friend's owner.
I know my tennis balls will come back though they may be forced underwater at times by the waves. I may be able to grab them and pull them in. It may take a while and I may look back to my Heavenly Father with need for an assuring nod or word as I keep pursing my treasures. Those nods or words will give me the strength to keep waiting, keep jumping, keep facing the waves with confidence. But I am no less exhausted from the jumping, at times fearful of the overtaking, and without experience in this particular storm to draw from.
My kids will get their tennis balls back too. Their leaping, wrestling, swimming upstream will, at times, be very challenging - even painful at times. They will have me to look to, to be their steady to nod and to give an encouraging word from God, who tethers me. And when they bring their balls back to me, I will be ready to throw and release again, having seen the goodness of God in this chapter of lessons in experience. He will undoubtedly keep reminding me that I cannot hold it all with my own strength as pain, confusion, questioning and fighting all leave me weak on my own.
Even the sandy beach that looked steady and consistent, had been rocked to its core this past year. Tons and tons of sand had to be brought in to rebuild the coastline or else it would have been washed away, taking the town and infrastructure with it. In many ways, some of us are needing a shuttling in of new sand. And this kind of rebuilding takes time, shifts and a lot of need for grace and support. No, we haven't all been in the same boat. And we have not had the same types of oars. Or flotation devices. And the experience of coming out of these boats will look different.
Thank goodness that my Heavenly Father is the one throwing my tennis balls into the ocean of this life, this pandemic, this experience of living in a broken world, this emerging from my Covid-19 boat. He sees where my kids are going and where they will end up and I can say with confidence that all will be well. He also is there for my questions, my need for reassurance and in those times where I need Him to rescue my three little tennis balls for me. He is so wise, good and loving that He leaves me with the constant reminder that I need Him and His strength to take each day, one at a time.
Just like I am sure that dog's memory of the chewy salty tennis ball in his mouth kept him fighting, my past experiences in this life of tasting and seeing the goodness of God do the same for me. Though the fight to keep it all together is real, the bigness and goodness of God and His history of promise keeping allow me to focus on the goal, the prize of His eternal love forever through His son, Jesus Christ, who understands this earthly struggle better than anyone. So, today, my three little tennis balls ride the bus back to school for the first time. Whatever waves they face today, tomorrow or the next day will be unmatched by the sturdy, steady love God has for them and for me. And for you too.