Two of my favorite things are science and the ocean. For a long time, I considered being a marine biologist before I decided that I felt called to work in the field of occupational therapy after school. That’s why a few summers ago I read a nonfiction book about rogue waves as my summer beach reading. The book talked about these gigantic, 100 foot waves that would literally appear out of nowhere—pretty scary stuff! One part of the book that really stuck with me talked about what happens when boats encounter these monstrous waves. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be sailing and suddenly see one of these waves coming in your direction. The book explained that when a boat comes upon a rogue wave forming, its only chance for survival is to race toward the wave and ride up and over it, which sounds a little counterintuitive, to me. But the book went on to say that if the boat sails in the opposite direction, the wave will break on top of it, and the boat will be lost. This makes me think about what we do when we face our own rogue waves: do we face them head on, or do we run away?
At some point in our lives, we’ll all be faced with a rogue wave or two—something unexpected and unwelcome that threatens to drown us. I think that often, our initial reaction is to try to outrun whatever challenge we are facing before it catches up to us. When we see a rogue wave forming in our lives, we tend to run away from all of the negative emotions that threaten to capsize us. We do all that we can to try to avoid the anger, sadness, heartache, betrayal, or whatever powerful emotions we are afraid to feel. We try to distance ourselves as much as we can from this pain in an effort to save ourselves. We run away by disconnecting ourselves from our hearts, trying as best we can to avoid the wave. But the thing about rogue waves is that they are powerful, and we will never be able to outrun them. If we sail away, they will always come crashing down on us. We cannot avoid pain forever.
What if we paddled toward the wave instead? What if we ran toward the pain and sadness and suffering, becoming in tune with our hearts and allowing ourselves to truly feel? What if we faced the pain head on instead of distancing ourselves from it? Doing this takes faith and courage. It seems unnatural to run toward the very thing that threatens to destroy us. We must have faith that when we face our suffering head on and hand it up to God, He will take us up and over our wave. When the disciples are in the boat, and a storm seems as though it will capsize them, Jesus tells them not to be afraid. When we experience pain fully, we are allowing our hearts to be vulnerable and open. When we open our hearts to pain, we also open them to God’s love. When we connect to our pain and suffering rather than running away from it, we will make it over the wave, and we will be open to feeling love, joy, and hope.