The lighthouse beyond the breakers

Spring-Fall 2012 136I’ve always loved the ocean. It’s beautiful, especially at sunrise. Many years ago, I lived at the base of a lighthouse. I had lived near it all my life, but the lighthouse keeper adopted me at age eleven. I was so excited to be his daughter. It was a peaceful existence. I served at the keeper’s table as ships came in. Sometimes the guests left shortly after the meal, yet there were others who accepted the invitation to stay. Morning after morning, I could see the sunrise in the distance with the big, vast, mysterious ocean in between. Then one day, a cruise ship passed my lighthouse- a sight I had never seen. I wondered if that cruise ship could get me closer to that sunrise. I could hear music, sounds of revelry- what was going on out there? Curious, I left the shore on a little boat to see for myself. I didn’t tell the lighthouse keeper I was leaving, but nothing is hidden from him. He watched as I rowed off into the distance. It was a slow, long trip to that cruise ship. During the years I had served at the keeper’s table, I had been inadequately feeding myself and I was weak. I pulled up along side…I didn’t plan on staying long- just long enough to rest and to see what all the commotion was about. If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, you are familiar with the activities, music, food, and 24hr non-stop action that is orchestrated for the passengers. All of this as you drift from place to place. It’s easy to get lost in it all. Chasing the sunrise….you can row, take a speed boat, fly by plane; it is a futile journey. The sunrise can never be “caught”. But I chose to strap my little boat to the side and went along for the ride.

After many years, I grew tired of the cruise. The activities, the food, the music….they were all great when the adventure began, but they had lost their luster. My belly was too full and I had a headache. And I was no closer to that sunrise. Actually, I was so tired that I hadn’t even seen the sunrise in a while. I met hubby and we decided to drop our little boats back into the water and tie them together for a journey of our own. Our little boats were a little dinged up from years hanging over the side of that larger ship, but they could still float. Lashed together, maybe we’d be safer. But if one went down, the whole thing could go down. It was a risk we were both eager to take. The ocean is so deep and filled with mysterious creatures and unseen dangers. Our boats were so small. Occasionally, a wave would provide a thrill or would loosen the ropes that tied our boats together- but we were still floating along and still tied together.

One day, as we were approaching the shoreline, I saw a lighthouse standing firm on a rock….a tall, solid beacon- painted white so it stood out during the day with lights so bright so it could be seen clearly at night. So stable and unchanging. Beautiful white beaches with trees to shelter our already sun- parched skin. And water! Drinkable water in a well at the base of the lighthouse. Oh…why did I spend so many years at sea? I had forgotten. I saw the lighthouse keeper on the shore. He was calling for me- waving me in! I began tossing the baggage I had accumulated overboard to make the boat lighter….my heart was soaring. I wanted to go home.

The hard part….getting past the breakers. I started swimming and asked hubby to join me…he was reluctant but slipped carefully off of the boat. I prayed that he would want to swim faster…to swim near me so we could help each other and so we could be together- safe on shore; on solid ground. He did. Then he caught a glimpse of the light coming from that beacon and he swam right passed me! After years of cosmetic repair, our structurally compromised boats began to brake apart and the pieces began to migrate toward the shore- caught up in the waves. When that mess cut loose- it was damaging. I knew that my boat had been in bad shape and I cringed in anticipation of every splinter, every board and every rusty nail that would strike me and tear my flesh. I was entangled in the debris and was struggling. As my head came out of the water, a large bag filled with shell and rock struck me.  Where did this bag come from? It seems that hubby had been collecting these trinkets in the course of our adventures. Why didn’t he tell me about them? If I had known, I may have avoided the collision….or maybe not. My head was bloody and I was stunned. He came to my aid, but a wave pushed me under. I was disoriented, there was a cloud of sand that had been stirred up at the ocean floor that clouded my sight and I couldn’t tell which end was up. Hubby reached for me but another wave came. It seemed that the same wave that pushed me under-propelled him forward. This happened time and again. I was battered by debris from our dismantled boats and cut from the sharp reef of coral that had been hidden just under the surface. I was tired from swimming and had water in my lungs…little air.  Nightfall came and I was so cold…still struggling in the breakers and battling the rip currents. I could feel that hubby still had ahold of my hand and could still see the light from that lighthouse. I stayed in the breakers for three months. Wave after wave, disoriented, reeling from each piece of debris that struck me, scraped me, cut me, broke my bones. I was NOT going to lose sight of that lighthouse…no way. Finally- a mighty thrust propelled us onto the shore. There I lay…face down, muscles aching, not strong enough to stand and bloody. There was the lighthouse; tall, white, bright and steady. At first, I was somewhat resentful of my hubby…he didn’t protect me from the debris from his boat as it broke apart! And what about that bag? He rode the top of each wave as it pushed me under. How could he? Then, I caught a glimpse of him and realized that he was just as battered as I was. He drew water from the well and brought it to me. We were together and very much alive, but what a mess.

We limped up the shoreline into the shade, ate some fruit from the lighthouse keeper’s trees and rested among the low-lying vegetation as our strength returned…our burned skin healed, clean, pure water flooded our cells- bringing life to our bodies. The lighthouse keeper had kept my cottage while I was gone and offered us a warm place to stay. This is where I wanted to stay. I was home. While my wounds have healed from that swim in the breakers…the scars remain, sometimes ache and bring floods of tears. Our muscles were sore for a time, but that long hard swim made us strong. We eat and serve at the keeper’s table and we do so together. I love the keeper and am so thankful to be his daughter. And the lighthouse is still tall, still strong, still bright.

Photo courtesy of Brian Owen

Photo courtesy of Brian Owen

IMG00360-20120707-0633In Maryland, there is a little town called Havre de Grace, which translates to “Haven of Grace”.

In that town, there is a little white lighthouse- a beacon in a haven of grace for those who had lost their way.

Praise the Lord for solid ground!

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