Silence, Peace, Quiet, Calm
I’d never really experienced true silence until I went snorkeling the first time a few months ago. Have you ever sat on the beach looking out at the big, wide ocean? It’s massive. Big. Very large. HUGE. I was living in Hawaii. Surrounded by this big, wide ocean. When I got there, I was amazed at the beauty, the enormity that the ocean provided. I thought how wonderful it would be to have water surrounding me. Then we went to the beach. And the fear gripped me. Fear of what was in the water. Fear of what could happen. Fear of getting lost or dragged out to sea. Fear of the ‘what if…’
Get in the Water
I put on the mask and fins. The mask was a little claustrophobic, but I could handle it, after all, it was just on my face. Then I fitted the snorkel to my mask, put it in my mouth and fell backwards into the crashing waves.
That was a mistake. You can’t fall into the waves like you see people do in the movies. The waves aren’t that nice. They tumble you around, drag you up onto the beach. Put sand in places sand should not be. And if you’re lucky enough to land in an outgoing tide, it drags you back and forth over the sand pushing that sand further into places it should not go. Just for future reference, walk into the ocean until you can lay down and swim. It’s a tad bit safer that way.
Once I got out of the waves and settled into the water with mask and snorkel where they belonged, I started to swim. First lesson in snorkeling, you don’t swim, you just float. Find a location away from the shore and float. Don’t fight the waves. Don’t swim against them, ride them, float with the rise and fall.
Relax. Breathe. Watch. Wait.
I floated on the rolling water, watching the coral below me. And once I calmed and stopped fighting I noticed the plethora of fish swimming around. It was unbelievable. There were fish everywhere. Black and white ones, red ones, spotted, striped, brown. At one point I chuckled as I thought of Dr. Seuss. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Second lesson in snorkeling, don’t laugh when you’re using a snorkel. It’s not pretty. Salt water burns.
I got lost in the water. Lost in the waves. Lost watching the fish. How they ate, how they swam. The ones by themselves, those that swam in schools. Did you know that when you spook a fish, it poops? Yea, kinda gross when I realized what they were doing. But funny, too. (Again, don’t laugh when you’re wearing a snorkel and mask. Salt water burns. Every time.)
It felt like only moments had passed
After a while, I looked down at my watch. I had been in the water for over an hour! It felt like just moments. That’s when I noticed it. The silence, the peace. There was a calm, a quiet; a quiet like I had never experienced before.
Sure, I’d been camping and experienced the peace after the sun sets, but there are still noises. Animals and insects that come out and talk to each other. I’d experienced the quiet of sitting by a lake and fishing, but again, there are still creatures talking to each other, other sounds and noises. This was pure silence. Silence like I imagine you would find in space.
The only thing I could hear was the sound of my own breath as it flowed through the snorkel. In and out. Breath. Life. Silence. Peace. An opportunity to experience the sound of myself. I’m not talking about the times I’d talk just to hear the sound of my voice. No, I mean truly hear myself think. What runs through one’s head when there is nothing else influencing it? What thoughts are voiced when there are no other noises to corrupt those voices?
For me, it was prayer in its simplest form. Praise. Praise to a God who could create the waves that rocked me slowly. And those that tumbled me over the sand. Praise to a God who could create fish to swim, feed, live, and flourish amongst the coral that grew in such an environment. Praise to a God who could create an ocean so vast that it takes months in a boat to cross. Praise to a God who can create a person so smart they invented a way to ‘breathe’ underwater.
I was surprised at the enormous difference between the crashing waves at the shore and the soft roll further out. I was amazed at how simple life could become when I stopped fighting. When I calmly rested and floated within the rolling of the waves. I am still amazed at how simple life can be when I’m still and rest. When I calmly float within the rolling of life’s waves.
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) takes on new meaning when you’re yards away from the shore, floating, quietly contemplating the vastness of the ocean. When in the midst of a rolling ocean, the peace and quiet of the one, true God engulfs you.