Walking to the end of the beach, a ten minute walk from my Island home, I came to the now disused life-boat station, and was surprised by a fresh discovery. A block of stone, the colour of Devonshire clotted cream, caught my attention. Carved by a skillful mason, with the quality of work that could easily embellish some of our great English churches and cathedrals, it depicted a vessel buffeted in the ocean waves. Four curling swirls, encircled an open boat at a precarious angle of forty-five degrees. Pock-marked by the pounding of the seas, the sculpture stands testimony to the response of the life-boat and its crew to life-threatening danger. Today, fewer, but larger craft, have made this station redundant.
Over the past few years, I have been learning to listen to God speaking to me through objects and sights that may come my way, and I wondered what this one could mean. As I looked more carefully, I saw that the mason had carved a small fish jumping above the waves, and wondered if this was the trademark of this particular craftsman. Boats, waves, fish... I thought of several stories from the New Testament that would fit these themes.
Could it be that God was showing me the many people in peril in storm-tossed seas, buffeted by the winds and waves of adversity and circumstance? Life-threatening illnesses, bereavement, relationship difficulties, engulf the very fabric of lives, and call for the lifeboat of salvation through Jesus Christ. None of this gave me the deep sense of being God's word to me that day.
But what of the little fish? The fish was the early symbol of the Christian Church, and this one jumping from the waves, was in its element. The ocean was its home, and it had the power to jump above the waves and enjoy the experience. Unlike those in the boat, the sea wasn't life-threatening for this little fish; it was thrilling and exuberant, the very environment for which it was created.
Having recently started a new job working with a group of adults with varying learning difficulties, I realised with renewed joy, that I too was “in my element”. The affection of those with Down's syndrome; the challenge of those with autism and their inability to comprehend emotion; the very intelligent; the funny; the emotional; all needing to be understood, accepted and valued as uniquely created and loved by God.
It is tiring, challenging and rewarding work, and I have yet to achieve the necessary balance with the other demands of my life; I am often surprised at how well my Heavenly Father knows me, my personality and gifts, and the very place in which I will be happiest serving Him. I am also surprised by the unique ways God has of confirming His plans and purposes, if I take the time to listen for His word.
Like the fish, I am in my element!
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