Imagine you live in Bournemouth, a town with one of the best beaches in the world, and probably the best in Europe. And then imagine you get complacent: you haven’t swam in the sea for several years. You safely pass along the beach and look longingly out, but the sea remains curiously out of reach. Then imagine you get seriously ill; in fact you nearly die.
You are in a hospital ward, Ward 17 to be precise. The nurses are lovely and the doctors try to reduce your pain. The windows are limited and the view out is restricted. It is summer time; something is happening out there, but what you don’t know, except that sometimes the sun escapes into your room and you experience a longing.
You know life could be over – for someone opposite it is, and he is wheeled away and they don’t speak about him anymore. You wonder when you will get out. And you have lost four stone in weight – you can’t eat and you can’t drink and this has been going on for a month. Intravenously you live, and you are not and never will be satisfied.
A day comes and you are out: weak and frail. How cold the body is now. But you do not give up – you bless the day you were born and you bless Almighty God for this living now, right now. And as day succeeds day, and you experience love, and yet another mouthful of food, and a larger sip still of drink, your strength returns. Like Samson, the hair grows back and the hero will return.
Of course, there will be more tests ahead, but they will be faced on their day then. For now the English Spring is in flood – the wettest April on record and so the deluge continues, till …
A week arrives. Your son is back from University and your wife says, Let’s go to Bournemouth Beach because the sun is shining. And you do.
Down there for the first time in years, you feel the sand under your feet as you approach the sea. Then there are sharp pebbles, just a few, and then you are at the shoreline, the interface between the land and the sea, and the cold salt water runs over your toes. Imagine it! Oh, imagine it!
I stand there, the cold, the intense cold – can I bear it? And then I begin my journey towards its fullness. My wife and son already there ahead of me. Laughing in the glory of a day that isn’t quite summer, but still the sun shines.
Finally, I launch myself in – into the gentle waves and I am immersed in the freezing cold. My hands especially feel it – my core tries to resist. But what joy as the current takes me, and as I flip and flop and attempt this stroke and then that, and know I am back. Yes, back from the sunless rooms and corridors and into the light and into the sea. The wild, wild sea – turbulent as all my motivations, inspiring me to live, provoking me to embrace the wholeness, the wideness of every uncontrollable atom of existence.
So, friends, if you are feeling a little down at the moment then take a tip from me – no, take a dip from me: find that water, that wild wild water, and find that sea, that deep and bottomless sea and let yourself go. As you do, you will come alive again.