Lessons from the Sea


Gina and I are currently on our annual sabbatical in the Dominican Republic. Every morning we rise early, walk the beach as the sun rises, and pray, “God, what do you want to show me?”

Then we come in for coffee and journaling, go to the gym, and return to breakfast, more journaling, and a time of worship.

Since we’ve been here, God gave us this verse: …let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1

What does this mean to us?

If we’ll walk with God and be the best we can be, we must be clean and healthy inside. Jesus didn’t come to change the world around us. He came to change the world inside us. As we become strong and healthy inside—whole and filled with godliness—we can begin to change the world around us. See, a healthy tree only can produce healthy fruits from healthy roots.

As we pray, become still, spend time in the Bible, and talk with each other, a lot of the filth inside begins to surface. Then we face it and let him clean it out.

Even after all these years on earth, we’re still discovering filth that dates back many years. Attitudes. Bitterness. Strange beliefs about God and reality. Depression and other old, unhealthy emotions.

Like an old junkyard, we’ve accumulated all this trash inside. We hauled some of the trash in. Old, unprocessed memories. Someone hurt us and we never resolved it. Ungodly thoughts and feelings. More of the trash was deposited by our parents, grandparents, and the culture we grew up in. Even today, trash continues pouring in from circumstances and the media.

Sure, we’ve been reading the Bible and praying for many years. We attend a good church. We just never understood about all the trash inside or took time to clean it out.

For example, I discovered I was holding some long bitterness toward some people. Gina and I discovered unresolved pain we caused each other over many years. We’ve both experienced rejection and disappointments that we’ve never processed.

Sometimes in the afternoon, we go out in the ocean. There we talk, pray, or just be still.

On most days, the water is clear—you can see all the way to the bottom. Yet the mighty ocean continues ebbing and flowing, rolling onto the shore and back to sea.

This powerful motion of water surfaces any existing dirt and debris. Crews come out early each morning to clean away the debris on the beach.

Then I thought about our souls, how the movement of life has a way of surfacing what’s down inside us.

Isaiah wrote, But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. (57:20)

Life’s circumstances cause waves and storms inside us. When there’s the junk inside, the junk will surface. Then we have a choice: change our circumstances or clean out the junk.

If we don’t clean out the junk inside, we will hop from one relationship to the next, accumulating more and more junk. Someday, we’ll find ourselves either living in shallow relationships or all alone. And all the extra junk we’re carrying inside will likely kill us.

We can try to obey God on the outside, all the while the wars are raging inside. People who do this are working hard against themselves, not really enjoying life. To them, obeying God is a heavy burden. They’re trying to be good but because they’re overworked inside, they have little capacity or energy to accomplish their potential or love others. They get stressed out, moody, easily offended.

Or you and I can clean out the junk so we can live a godly life from the inside out. This happens when we learn to be still with God, allow the Word in, and talk with a few trusted friends about what’s really happening inside. Don’t sit around having gripe sessions, just stirring up the junk. But get it out, talk it through, and move on with a clean soul.

Learn the lessons from the sea.