by Karla Koon
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
I grew up in California and spent a lot time at the beach. One summer, I got a “boogie board” which translates into today’s lingo as a body board. I could spend hours out there riding waves or until my parents pulled me out of the water because my fingers and toes had pruned, and my lips were an odd shade of blue. I was a little kid with my yellow boogie board trudging out into the Pacific Ocean with no idea what I was doing. My selective memory sees myself as catching huge waves, confidently and competently, time after time. Those are very real memories. Those waves were big for my tiny frame and over time, I did get surprisingly good at it.
I find myself reflecting on the other side of that memory coin. I think about the times when waves would crash on top of me, suck me into the undertow and tumble me into disorientation. Or the times when waves would catch me by surprise and knock me down. I would struggle to regain my footing to turn and have another wave knock me down again. Then there were the times when I did catch that monster wave, but the power of the water was greater than the grip on my board. I watched helplessly as my board was whisked away, as I took one last gasp of air and closed my eyes in preparation for submersion.
Each time I emerged from the dark abyss of the chilly waters, I brought with me new learnings and understandings into the bright sunlight. I learned to stay calm and relaxed in the murky churn of the water. I learned to extend my limbs in all directions, as that would give me the best chance of finding sand and orienting myself to stand. Once upright, I learned to be still and look back towards the water to locate the proximity of the next big wave. All these lessons taught me to let go of my natural inclination to panic, flail my limbs without intention and once standing, seek the refuge of the dry sand. I ingested vast amounts of salt water, was crushingly blindsided by in-coming waves and drug through the slimy seaweed by the push and pull of the tides, more time than I could count. But with each experience, I learned and was changed.
In many ways, this last year has felt like being battered by wave after wave, being hit, submerged, and tossed with countless emotions that are too many to name. Sometimes it feels like the waves just keep coming. Waves of a viral pandemic repeatedly surging. Waves of the unattended festering of racial injustice. Waves of unprecedented political division and violence. The relentless force of these waves, again, crashing on top of me, sucking me into the under tow and tumbling me into disorientation.
The Holy Spirit brings me back to the memories of my childhood. I am reminded of what the Creator has already taught me.
I remind myself to stay calm despite the surrounding chaos. I remind myself to empty my mind and open my heart, recognizing that despite the turbulence that has marked and marred this year, I know how to relax into God. I reach out in all directions to family, friends, colleagues, and my faith community to find and sustain my bearings. The Holy Spirit connects us, as I feel the imprint of hands holding me in light and love that transcends the physical limitations of our collective situation. I continue to stand up as a disciple of Christ. I look to the horizon with love and compassion for what comes next. In stillness I look out, transformed.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall live in it.
Karla Koon is a Worship Leader and Eucharistic Minister at St, Andrew’s Episcopal Church, in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle. When not serving at church or working as the Director of HR Operations and Administration for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (Catholic Charities), you can find Karla, reading, quilting, golfing, hiking, kayaking, and gathering with friends and family.