The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. – Psalm 111:10a (NRSV)
My family loved the ocean. My mother taught me that salt water would heal your cuts; its buoyancy would lift your spirits; and the frigid temperatures of the Atlantic would make you resistant to colds in winter. My father taught us about tides, marine life, currents—always conveying a sense that the sea was much more ingeniously arranged than land. And nothing was tastier and better for you than seafood. The ocean seemed to me to be a vast and bountiful source of all things good and fascinating.
One summer when I was four or five years old, I was playing in the waves, letting each one pick me up and deposit me a few feet away on the shore. Then came a wave that sucked me underwater, flung me around, and spit me out headfirst onto the beach. Now I knew to keep an eye on those waves. I had the beginning of wisdom that was, if not fear, then brand-new respect for the fact that when you’re in the ocean—even just standing up to your knees in it—you are not in charge.
If it’s really God, and not actually the Atlantic Ocean, that is the vast and bountiful source of all things good and fascinating, then the beginning of wisdom must be to respect—if we can’t bring ourselves to fear—God’s power. And to know that when you step into God’s world, you’re not in charge.
Help me remember not to fight your currents and to swim with them. Amen.