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Carried on the crest of the waves

On a recent vacation to the beach, my youngest child did her very best to gather up every seashell on the shore. One after another, she'd bring them to me, marveling over their intricate beauty. Sitting on a quilt on a small piece of the edge of the continent, looking over the vast expanse of the sea, I inhaled the wonder of it all. There is a God, above and beyond my imagination, who has created a universe so vast and so intricate that His design genius is staggering. This God, the one who has attended to every detail of the smallest seashell while also filling the land with oceans deeper and wider than we can see, asks me to cast my cares upon Him.

And I don't.

I mean, I do, but not really. I arrived on that seashore more tired than I've ever been. Life had thrown me one challenge after another, and, because I am just a child in the surf, every time I stood up, another wave sent me tumbling. I struggled under my own power to wade to shore when really He was waiting and wanting to lift me on a wave and carry me there.

As I fought the current and worked hard under my own power to fix all the things I saw awry, I grew exhausted and very, very anxious. My mind filled with a myriad of "what-ifs." Increasingly, I began to focus on the possible problems instead of fixing my eyes on the One who calms the seas. Anxiety took a stronghold as I scanned the horizon, and I was overcome with the potential storms that might blow in. Like Peter, who strode across the water until he took His eyes off Jesus, I felt myself sinking into despair.

Life just doesn't work without God. All the "what-if" questions, all the fear over the next phone call, all the struggle over the next bill are, at their roots, a blatant lack of humility. Anxiety is when I think that the God who created the universe cannot calm the storms in my small life. Further, anxiety is fueled by the pride that tells me that I have to rush in and make everything better instead of waiting patiently for the blessings of the God who parted the Red Sea. He has a plan.

I have to trust.

There on the edge of the ocean, surrounded by His vast and wondrous creation, I am reminded that I am very small, indeed. I am limited in my knowledge of God, and honestly, I am limited in my ability to fully submit to Him. I am small. He is great. The waves can crash around me, and I can stumble in fear while I try to control them or I can be knocked over by His glory.

It is pride that compels us to try to control, and it is pride that fuels anxiety. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine called pride the essence of all sin. Pride keeps us from knowing God, and it keeps earnest but anxious seekers from resting in the peace of Christ. We are people desperate for humility. C.S. Lewis wrote, "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited, indeed."

Every day presents a choice. I can choose to muddle through on my own power, pridefully believing that all good things depend on my ability to make them so, or I can choose God. I can awaken and submit the day to the master and creator of the universe. I can call out over the roar of the surf. In all humility I can beg for His help and also acknowledge that His plans are better than mine, that He is present in both the pleasure and the pain, that He works all things together for the good (Rom 8:28) if only I surrender to His majesty and let Him carry me on the crest of the wave safely to shore.

Foss, whose website is elizabethfoss.com, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015