When I taught high school in California, there was no small number of students in my class who had never seen the sea. It was a startling realization for me, for though there are many in the interior of the United States who have likely not had the opportunity to visit the coast, I did not think any in my city were among them. For this community was merely on the other side of the Santa Cruz mountains, the ocean a short 30 minute drive away. My students dwelt so near the shores of the sea, and yet had never seen them.
Some, I know, were constrained by poverty, by lack of means and access to visit a place so far out of their normal surroundings. But others were like Merry, and had never been out of their own land before. They had gone up to San Francisco, perhaps, or even traveled to a somewhat far off tourist site, but had never left their own place for lands unknown and unprepared. And if it was not the sea never seen, it was something else so simple as to be profound: snow, for instance, was another.
For we who have been blessed to see the sea, there is something else that stands in its place. There is a haven, a feature, a profound beauty to which we have dwelt so close and yet have never seen, even as others who are far off long to know it. It is something we should know, something we should be able to express when another asks us to tell of it. There are many reasons for us never having see the seas of our lives. Perhaps, like Merry, we were fearful of what lay outside our comfort zone. Perhaps, instead, it was ignorance, not realizing something so great and magnificent was so near us. Perhaps, instead, it was complacency, a sense of that such a wonder would always be there, not needing our immediate time and attention, and that eventually we would make our way to it.
“Happy folk are you to dwell in the havens of freedom,” says the man from far off: but do we who rise and sleep in such freedom really know it and appreciate it? “It is long indeed since any of my folk have looked upon democratic and fair institutions,” says the persecuted woman: but do we who assume such civic powers actually consider them with any serious thought? “Yet still we remember the joys of learning in our tales,” recalls the person long-removed from school: but do we who have such education understand what fortunate it is to have it? “Tell us of your faith as we walk,” say those who have long felt empty and alone: but do we Christians, we believers of any background, have anything in confidence to say?
The world is indeed full of peril, and many things that were once certain and obvious can no longer be assumed as given. The Sea, the Sea, it is the Sea that calls us home! And we who have long dwelt by the Sea, the most fundamental calling of our essence, must no longer ignore its beckoning and assume it shall always be there, waiting for us, a little off West of our lands. For now we are upon an island amid many perils, and the way to the Seas of our lives may soon be cut off for a time. Now it the acceptable hour: now the time is at hand. Let us go to the shores of the things that matter and take them in fully, so that we may share them with those who have no the opportunity to know them in these days.