Waves of grace…. the image in these words is one of cleansing and refreshing. A gentleness that envelopes the innermost being and purges the dross of sin and carries it away on the tides. Grace can indeed be that gentle action of God at work in our lives. But after standing on a west coast beach this summer and watching the waves of the open ocean crash into the shore again and again and again, I was reminded that there was nothing gentle about this action. It was fierce even on a relatively calm day, and it was relentless. The pounding action of these waves was most evident on the huge rocks that clustered stoically along the shoreline. Each and every one of them, regardless of their colour, size, or molecular make-up, was worn to a glossy smooth sheen by years of contact with insistent waters. The effect was stunning. Once dull, lifeless surfaces glistened and radiated the gleam of the sun’s rays. I could not resist running my hands repeatedly over their warm silky smoothness. How could something so hard seem so soft?
I’ve mulled this over for some time now – thinking about how waves are often used metaphorically for the grace of God. The dilemma in my mind has probably been that my image of the gentle grace of God and the obvious force and unremitting strength of the waves on that beach seemed completely contradictory. Can grace be that relentless, that determined, that forceful in its attack on the strongholds of my heart?
My own life experience recognizes that it is indeed so. The waves of grace continue to assail my soul because there are still stoic clusters of boulders that persist in resisting the touch of God. I am so humbled that He has not given up. Of all the impossibilities that the God of the impossible must face, it must be the hardness of the human soul. And yet His waves of grace continue…
I noticed another effect of the waves that day. The continuous action created a rhythmic ebb and flow that pulsated like a beating heart. Next to the congregations of large rocks lay sandy reaches of beach, ringed by the flotsam and jetsam of ocean life: seaweed strands, shell shards, and crab carcasses. Free from the impediments of intervening rocks, the waves here could reach and stretch and slide almost playfully along the shoreline. These are the places where people like to congregate. It is comfortable here.
As the waves ebbed, returning to gather energy for another run at the beach, the water gently toyed with the tiny grains of sand. Worn to almost microscopic size, the grains settled along tiny rivulets of water, separating by weight into intricate patterns of colour. The resulting effect was similar to the lacy fans of frost one often sees on windowpanes on cold winter mornings. Unlike those frozen images, however, these fans of sand were alive and continually moving, gently shifting and flowing like kaleidoscope rivers.
The same waves. The same fierceness and relentless action. Yet – the effect is so different. Resolute rocks worn smooth and shifting sands given purposeful beauty. How like the grace of God… always working to bring His truth to the hardness of our hearts, always working to remove the sharp, coarse edges that keep us dull to His voice, so that even in our hardness, His glory still shines. And how like the grace of God to reach into those more tender areas of our hearts, where hardness may not be the hindering factor, but perhaps disordered focus, fleeting doubts, haphazard purpose. His grace gently, but consistently, washes over these areas, orchestrating patterns of beauty and colour that reflect His design for our lives.
How like the grace of God.