Our parents got the two bedrooms, but we girls didn’t mind sharing the floor in the small living room, the gray, white-streaked linoleum tiles covered with quilts, the floor beneath crunching with a little grit despite all the sweeping our mothers did every day. You live on the beach, you WILL have sand. At 8 I was the oldest and usually the last one asleep. No air conditioning in those days meant the windows stayed open wide and I loved listening to the roar of the ocean. Over and over and over, the steady pounding of the surf gave me a feeling of security. I did not have to guess if the next wave would roll in; all I had to do was wait for it, and eventually it lulled me to sleep.
Fast forward to a time thirty years later. We were camping on Anastasia Island, a beach 60 miles further north. The state campground was still small back then, only one section just a few feet off the dirt trail to the beach, acres of palmetto groves separating it from the bridge to the city streets of old St Augustine. The boys had their own tent, and as we lay in ours once again I listened to the surf crashing onshore, just as it had all those years before. Over and over, as steady as a ticking clock, as a piano teacher’s metronome, as a heartbeat on a hospital monitor. All those years and it had not stopped.
And then another twenty years passed and we two spent a weekend on Jekyll Island. This time we were too far from the beach to hear it in the night, but after a wonderful meal at the Driftwood Bistro we stopped on the beach for a walk and there it was. The wind whipped around our legs and plastered my hair across my face, gulls screamed over us in the waning light, and the waves were still coming in, again and again and again, just as they have since the dawn of time. They never stop. Some days they may be rougher than others. Some days the sea may look almost calm. But check the water’s edge and that lacy froth still creeps onshore in its never-ending cycle.
Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Jer 31:35-36
Jeremiah tells the people that God will restore his nation and establish a new covenant in the verses just preceding those, a covenant in which their sins will be “remembered no more.” He uses the stability of the natural phenomena that He created as a guarantee of His promise. Only if the sun stops rising, if the moon stops shining, if the waves stop rolling in, can you discount my promises, He says. That guarantee counts for all of God’s promises. He never changes, we are told. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so yes, He will keep the promises He has made to us of redemption, of protection, of spiritual blessings and a final reward.
Are you a little blue today? Has your life been upended in a way you never expected, in a way you can hardly bear? The sea God made is still roaring. Those waves are still rolling in just as they have for generation after generation after generation. The white caps you see are the same your parents saw and your grandparents and your great-grandparents on back to your earliest ancestors. And God is still faithful to His people. Close your eyes, listen to that perpetual roar, and breathe a little easier tonight.
I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isa 51:15-16