When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.Psalm 65:4
In my experience, when it comes to North Carolina beaches, the presence of actual waves is very unpredictable and not extremely likely. By “actual waves” I mean waves large enough to carry someone all the way to the beach on a decent boogie board. On a recent family trip to Cape Hatteras we were fortunate to have waves like these. My daughter was determined to successfully ride one all the way to the point where her board was scraping the sand, and I was equally determined to do everything I could to make it happen. If you are a beachgoer yourself you know that timing is crucial for achieving success in this endeavor, but the greatest challenge, especially for a smaller person, is getting out past the point where most of the waves are breaking. For my daughter, there was a point where the waves were simply overwhelming. This was where I came in. I would hold the boogie board high above my head, and hold her hand tightly every time a wave would crash down on us, gently pulling her further and further from shore until we got to the calmer waters and the optimal place to catch “the big one.” Whenever one came along with potential I would quickly turn her toward shore, give her a push, and tell her to kick as fast as she was able. Those few times she actually did make it to shore…and I mean all the way to shore…she would jump up, turn around with a huge smile on her face, and give me a big thumbs-up. That made it all worth it.
When I read the verse quoted above a few days ago, I immediately thought of the waves at the ocean, and the difficulty of trying to move beyond them. Not only do you have to fight against their sheer power, you have the added challenge of gaining your footing on sand that is quickly moving beneath you. Overwhelming seems like an appropriate word to use to describe it, just as it seems appropriate to describe the way we feel when we come face to face with our own sinfulness. Maybe it’s a constant reminder of past mistakes, or disappointment at the way we responded to a situation in the present, or fear that we might give in to temptation in the future. Overcoming our sin, and the guilt that accompanies it, can often feel like a struggle we have no hope of winning. This is where God comes in. He offers us forgiveness. He holds tightly to our outstretched hand, not allowing our sin to sweep us away, but pulling us through it, bringing us to calmer waters. At the risk of pushing the analogy too far, I think it’s also true to say that when we see “the big one” forming on the horizon, we can trust God to lift us above our sin, turning our faults and failures into something beautiful, the ride of a lifetime. This is the joy of our salvation, the hope and realization of our redemption.