My kids have grown up in skiffs, on the Alaskan ocean, surrounded by fish, kelp and rolling water. (Hold on to something stable while you watch this!)
It has not all been good. They will tell you of unending kelp in the nets, of too many fish and not enough fish, of mending net in the rain, of huge seas, of lost meals and sleep. But most of them come back. For at least part of the summer fishing season. For now.
They have grown up in the skiff. A girl became a fisherwoman. Boys became fishermen. And me? Some days, after 38 seasons out here, I think this life has turned this young woman old.
But God will not allow it. Not yet, at least. The day I landed on the island for my 36th season, something happened. I saw a furious splashing out by the reef in front of our house. A pod of orcas hunting down sea lions, maybe?
“Micah! Abraham! Come quick!” They run to the window with me, watching strange flippers emerge then a huge dark body leapt out of the water.
“What is it?” the boys ask together. Then I know.
“It’s a pod of fin whales. They’re lunge feeding!”
My eyes are fixated on their antics. I almost can’t believe it. Fin whales are sober whales. They don’t cavort or frolic like humpbacks. They’re massive, second only to the blue whale, and they haul their heft with great solemnity about the oceans. They know what life is about. They migrate to this bay again and again every summer, like me. They’ve seen it all. And, we have too.
But now—there are fresh herring darting into the bay. Now it is nearly summer. Now they give up their old habits and indulge in what’s called lunge feeding. I’ve read about it but never seen it. They’re feeding on their sides, skimming and scooping up schools of herring, their usually invisible flippers flapping and slapping the water.
We watch with binoculars as they rise and roll, flushing the waters with their spinning and lunging, mixing water and whale and air into a wondrous froth. Why merely sink and dive when they can spin and skim their thirty-ton bodies up onto the lovely surface and net whole schools of tasty fish?
And there we are, laughing, witnessing their perfect feast, and who knows what else is possible in this watery world? (Click to Tweet)
All the next day my steps are light with joy. I remember G. K. Chesterton’s words:
"It is possible that God says every morning to the sun, 'Do it again,' and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike. It may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are."
Is it possible that already I am young again, full of hope for the season ahead? The waters that threaten us, that wear us out and down, also inspire and launch the worlds’ heaviest creatures into the air—can it be? (Click to Tweet)
But it is. And I think again of the gathering of waters, the mikveh, the Hebrew word for that moment in Genesis when God called out all the waters above and below into a single massive body, the seas. The same word, mikveh (literally meaning “collection”), came to be used of every gathering of water that cleansed and purified. A convert to Judaism would immerse himself into the mikveh, a special pool of water for that very purpose, waters that were sometimes called “the womb of the world.”
As the convert came up out of the waters, he emerged new, as a child, now separated from his own pagan past. He was called “a little child just born,” or “a child of one day.”
I am a “child of one day” this day, the spume of the whale washing over me. I am converted from the wear of age and time and so many trips and seasons and fear and doubt out here—made young again by delight. And it is easy to think of God creating the oceans right now. It is easy to think of Jesus right now. So many times I am looking for Him, for that man who has both rescued me in such particular ways, and who remains yet so far off, so invisible that I am blinded with longing and frustration.
But this first day my eyes are open. As I launch off into the pages of this book, Crossing the Waters, I will show everywhere I have found him here, in these waters, and in the waters of the gospels.
And you, too, are you ready to be made young again?
God is waiting to fill you with delight!!
(And writing this, thinking of you all, already fills me with delight!)