“Let’s have lunch at the beach,” I said. “I’m sure no one will get wet,” I said. It’s New Hampshire. Dignified surf. You can usually wade ankle-deep into the ocean hoping that this is the day you will see a whale on the horizon (so that you will never, ever have to get on a whale-watching boat.) You only ever see a smudge of the Isle of Shoals and maybe a sailboat. It’s a contemplative wade, pants carefully rolled up, feeling a little Nantuckety. Usually. Friday, the waves crashed in drunk and disorderly. Party offshore, I guess. Our sedate “ankle-wade” turned into a triple wave that drenched everyone from the waist down.
I was wearing an attractive-yet-thin cotton skirt, which I squeezed out and pointed delicately windward. Because one of the kids was headed for a long, fun, extensive playdate after our adventure, I tried to divide up dry clothes amongst the needy. Unfortunately, we only had one pair of dry leggings in an owl print, and that would Not Do, so I went to Walmart, which I don’t mind doing now that we’ve got that Dave Ramsey guy all sorted. Buying extra underwear is a step of faith in hopes that maybe it’ll get worn. A new pair, every day. Every day! Oh, the riches of His glorious grace. Turns out the sneakers I bought (to replace the completely soaking ones which we thought were safely stowed away on a rock but alas) were, quote, “cool kid sneakers.” The kid in question did recently try to get some peers to switch from soccer to “embrace how the Olmecs used to play, and then sacrifice the losing team,” so I don’t think ‘cool’ is a threat to our household any time soon, but at least we’ve achieved some good footwear.
The beach was so fun, in fact, that we went back on Saturday with bathing suits and towels and a cooler full of sandwiches so I would not, in a moment of late-summer weakness, hang it all for a plate of clam strips. (because I do not want a plate of clam strips. I want someone else to order clam strips so I can snitch one.)
So, this next part kind of relates to the beach trip, but only in a very thin way. Just one of those neat things that happens, I guess. There I was, writing out a List Of Anxious Things recently, when a Scripture popped into my head from Isaiah. Do you ever do that? Write out a list of the current plagues? I do. I leave nothing out, and then I pray until I feel better or I get some insight or other direction. My plague list was especially long and particularly filled with dumb things, if I’m being honest. They didn’t feel dumb when I wrote them down but in retrospect, I cannot believe I let a few sundries put me in such a dither. While I was contemplating such things, I remembered a verse: “…peace to those who are far off, and peace to those who are near.” It’s from Ephesians 2, just after the trembling relief of being rescued and just before the bit where the mystery of the gospel is revealed. But I’m a geek for Isaiah so I remembered it from Chapter 57:
14 And it shall be said,
“Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16 For I will not contend forever,
nor will I always be angry;
for the spirit would grow faint before me,
and the breath of life that I made.
17 Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
19 creating the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
“and I will heal him.
20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea;
for it cannot be quiet,
and its waters toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
I did promise book reviews and recipes, because those are important, but the best way to inculcate joy is to tell you Things That Are True About God. This Scripture put me face to the floor. It’s almost an answer to the Psalmist’s cry in Ps. 85. Astounding. If you were at my kitchen table, I’d flap my bible right open and say, “Have you seen this?! Can you believe it?!” I don’t mean to slide headfirst into the gospel all the time, but I can’t help it. The message is right there for those who are far off and those who are near: peace, peace. I’ve always loved how God says, “Peace, peace…and I will heal him.” And, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him.” Peace and healing from the One who inhabits eternity and inhabits those with contrite and lowly spirits…THAT is how our God loves. He revives hearts and spirits. He can’t not or His own spirit would flag. He leads and restores comfort to us and to those who care for us in our distress. He provides refuge and then gives us an inheritance of land and possessions. He creates good fruit! He has all the verbs. He does the work. It’s the kind of lavish, almost unbelievable grace that’s in Ephesians, as well. Broken the dividing wall of hostility indeed!
The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot be quiet, whose waters toss up mire and dirt. The waves we got clobbered by once accidentally and once delightfully on purpose were definitely Not Quiet. They couldn’t be. Too much happening offshore. For the wicked to be compared to relentless waves is gutting and harsh, but unfortunately true. For a disturbingly graphic list of what God is referring to when He says, “the wicked,” please turn to Isaiah 57: 1-13. I won’t go into it here, but it’s really, really bad. Idolatry. Churning evil. Mire and dirt.
Do you suppose it’s the same mire from which we were lifted out and set upon a rock? Do you suppose it is the same dirt that makes our righteousness look like filthy rags? Do you suppose it is the same lack of peace that births hopelessness and despair and eternal death? How miraculous, then, that in this very passage, God promises to dwell with us. These verses are a prophetic promise not only of God’s forgiving and passionate love towards His people, but a promise that one day, dwelling with the meek and lowly would mean nothing less than Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Because Jesus is our Peace, this rest is available right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re coming for the first time or the hundred and first. Peace and healing are accessible through the Father and, as this passage shows, you don’t have to twist His arm to get it. Far or near. Where are you? I see you, this passage says. I see your contrite heart and your backsliding and your former wickedness and your lowly spirit and I say MAKE WAY for my people, I’m coming. I’m here. I’m coming again.
If there is anything keeping you from experiencing the peace of God right now, RIGHT NOW when you are reading this blog post, just blurt it out to the One who in verse 15 declares He is the reviver of heart and spirit. I know some of you don’t even have dumb things on your list, you have clear and present dangers that need a Holy God. Take God at His word right now, and ask for peace and healing and whatever else you need to rest in Him and praise His name. And then tell one other person how God showed up, because He likes that, and it makes the darkness flee, and surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in the land.