Tumult and Peace

A gull on the beach stands
poised and pointed to sea;
then drawn by beckoning waves, 
steps stiffly out until water and sky
fill all his world, and he floats,
lost and found in the curve of a wave,
caressed by water's passioned loving,
breast to breast, and home at last.

I, like gull, trust water's wildness
and lean to sea.
Surf sounds pull at me; wave tendrils lap
my steady pacing feet.
Then, launching forth with faith-buoyed bones,
I stretch myself upon the sea,
to toss among some random foam
or lightly rock in Love's embrace,
'til floating deep within Love's heart,
I rest at last, and am at home.

Sometimes daily life is like gently floating down a stream. To live in harmony with God’s ways seems peaceful and unfolds smoothly. But many of us have also known times of tumult when saying yes to the tug that is God’s beckoning can seem quite risky and downright scary.

In such times, God’s beckoning is not easy or peaceful. It’s challenging to go beyond one’s comfort zone. There’s a definite difference between floating gently down a stream and being tossed among the waves. It’s so much harder to trust that God’s call is leading us through waves when we see them crashing!

At the time I wrote the poem above, I had been invited to take on a leadership role in my Quaker Meeting during a time of transition and conflict, a challenging job that could toss me among the waves. To trust such an invitation as a true call was like entering the surf with only “faith-buoyed bones” to carry me through.

When we recognize and respond to God’s call, even when it seems to lead through intimidating waves, we are accepting a path that is right for us. We are saying yes to living God’s love in a way uniquely ours.

One’s person’s unique call may be to serve in places that are actually dangerous. Frontline peacemaking around the world is risky, but I have friends who knew this was their work. In the midst of the conflict around them, they carried an inner certainty. Much nearer to home, someone else’s calling could be striving to create peaceful relationships among neighbors and family who passionately disagree. This can be as scary as crashing waves!

Often we are called to something that is hard simply because we must persist and be faithful. One friend has postponed a dream so she can be available to aging parents. Another has continued working with a struggling nonprofit rather taking on a highly paid job. Both have been tossed with uncertainty; both have accepted this call for this time in their lives. And both bear witness to Love.

I am reminded of Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish diplomat who became United Nations Secretary-General. He wrote in Markings that

I don’t know Who – or what – put the question, I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone – or Something – and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

Hammarskjold faithfully lived out his Yes, however challenging it was to be a voice for peace and reason in the mid-20th century world. I believe that whether one is a caregiver within family, a bridge-builder among quarreling neighbors, or the head of the United Nations, to live in daily faithfulness to one’s unique call brings both the tumult and the peace of “Love’s embrace.”

May we learn to trust when we feel God’s pull. May we “launch forth with faith-buoyed bones” into the tumult.

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