I first saw the ocean when I was 19 years old. I was a young Marine Corps private stationed at a military base in Virginia and, one weekend, several of us ventured to Virginia Beach.
I was awed by the immensity, the power, the beauty, and the mystery of the ocean. That evening, while my comrades were bar-hopping and trying to pick up girls, I sat on the beach until long into the night. It was, for me, a place of peace, of calm, of solace. It has remained so throughout the years.
I have always believed in God, even before I began attending church. As a small child, I used to lie in the yard and look up at the stars, convinced that such magnificence and grandeur could not be random or accidental. I have that same sense when I am at the ocean.
While lakes can be man-made and rivers can be re-routed, the ocean is bigger than humanity’s efforts. It is constant, vast, brimming with life, dangerous, and beckoning.
While I feel small at the beach, I also feel a part of a great and awesome creation. The ocean has been here throughout man’s troubles and triumphs and it will be here when all of that is over.
About 23 years ago, I fell into a deep, probably a clinical, depression. After being sucked down that black hole for months with no relief on the horizon, I made a decision.
One February morning, I left the house at 4 a.m. Taking a lawn chair and several blankets, I drove the six hours to the beach. At 10 a.m., without a person in sight on this frigid, windy day, I unloaded the lawn chair and planted it in the sand. I wrapped myself in blankets and, until 4 in the afternoon, sat and looked at the ocean — contemplating, wondering, praying, and trying to make sense of things.
At 4 p.m., I loaded up the car and returned home. No one knew where I had been or what I was doing. It was the beginning of my coming out of a dark place.
Since that first trip to Virginia, I have since been to the ocean (or some large body of water connected to an ocean) in Florida, Georgia, California, Maine, Alaska, Australia, Manila, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Mexico, Ireland, and possibly a few other places that have faded into memory.
I have flown over the Atlantic Ocean round-trip twice and over the Pacific twice, as well. I have taken my family to the ocean over the years. Whether I see the ocean from six miles high, from a hotel balcony, or sit in a chair with my feet in the water — or go out on a boat to fish — it is still a calming, mystical, spiritual experience. During dark and difficult days, it is a place of solace.
It is a place to recharge. It is a place to reconnect with the One who set it all in place. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:6–9.
After all these years, I am still fascinated, awed, and moved by this incredible part of creation. If I ever disappear for a day or two, look for me at the ocean. Or, better, just let me be. I will be just fine in a little while.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at email@example.com.]