If you’ve ever been bodysurfing, you know what I’m talking about.

That moment when you’ve selected the right wave, timed your jump perfectly, and you’re carried by the crest of the wave as it breaks toward the shore. You sense the ocean’s raw power as the sea churns and curls under your chest. Then, towards the end, the wave starts to disorganize, and you’re either set down gently at the shore, or slammed to the rough sand by a secondary wave.

Two of the most formative summers of my life, when I was 12-14 years old and in the tumultuous mid-1970s, were spent perfecting the art of bodysurfing at the beach near my home in North Carolina. It’s by far my favorite thing to do at the beach. So of course, on our recent trip to Georgia’s fantastic Tybee Island, I had to bodysurf once more.

Bodysurfing can be fickle. A great wave may come along, but if you’re not standing in the right place, it will break behind you, or in front of you. Sometimes you think you’ve caught the wave at just the right time, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t develop. Or, when you’ve caught and are riding that perfect wave, it goes away. Just…gone.

This past week at Tybee, I decided to brave the surf. The morning had been low tide, making the waves choppy and small. But as the tide turned, the waves became larger, and I ventured out. I selected one of the first waves to come in.

The first wave I tried was perfect. I didn’t catch a better one the rest of the day.

Maybe that’s why, when my daughter asked me to laugh while taking my picture at the local coffee shop, my face was so ready to show the joy in my heart. Because I wasn’t just happy that I had returned to the ocean. No, this was different.

It was if the ocean had found me, and was welcoming me back.

Perhaps this was a glimmer of what the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable (starting at Luke 15:11) felt when he returned to his father. Yes, coming home was great. But it wasn’t joy-filled until the person who made it home — his father — welcomed him back with open arms.

Yes indeed, home really is a Who.

One thought on “The Ocean and Me

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