I never meant to go swimming

This week I'm on holiday in the Isle of Wight, relaxing, walking and savouring Ventnor's particularly mild and sunny micro-climate. Sunday - my first full day - was especially lovely; azure skies and the sun beaming and turning the sea into a million sparkling jewels. Within minutes of arriving on the beach I was barefoot at the shoreline, experiencing that compelling, magnetic pull into the tide. The sea - especially a bejewelled, glistening, gently lapping sea - exerts a strange power on anyone who stands at its edge, scanning its immensity. 

Years ago, when I started recounting my vocation story, I began to use walking into the sea as a metaphor for my journey into God, and into unbounded Love. I didn't plunge, or dive in; neither did I fall in... I simply walked, at times hesitantly, fearful of the likely outcome; but also mesmerised, captivated, into the greatness of this Love. And on Sunday, contemplating the sea which effervesced around my feet and simultaneously stretched, fathomless and immeasurable, before me, I recalled just how that journey began...

Of course, thirty years ago I never meant to walk into the sea... only to visit the beach. I'd known this beach all my life: I'd built sandcastles and written messages into its sand; collected shells and stones, and - of course - I'd gone to the shoreline, and paddled and splashed in tiny waves. Sometimes I'd go in a bit deeper; often, I'd gaze at the sea's vastness and the distant horizon - but I'd never imagined entering more than its shallows. But that's what I started to do, thirty or so years ago, drawn, irresistibly beckoned, into gentle tides which swirled and frothed around my ankles. 

I never meant to walk further in... only to stay in God's shallows, where all could be fun, and controllable, and I could return to the beach whenever I fancied. But my increasing fascination with God, and all things God-related drew me further and further in... the waves, slightly stronger now, lapping around my knees, then my thighs... and still the sea beckoned, lured, enticed me in, just that bit more... 


I never intended to go swimming... and even when I began to, I was still within my depth; still able to stand with my head and shoulders above the waves, which, imperceptibly, were gathering strength. So I certainly never intended to be fully immersed; never imagined I'd start breathing underwater as I began discovering new, ever-deeper depths... but that is what happened. A huge wave washed over me, and I knew something of the strength and vastness of God's unconditional love for me; knew, too, that I had been created for love. 

And thus began another journey within a journey: into the Society, and into the depths of the Heart of Jesus... I journey I am still on... 

Today we celebrate St Therese of Lisieux, who would often refer to the shoreless ocean of Jesus' love, and who sailed a straight route, my motto written on my sail: to live in love. May she pray for all of us, as we journey, whether with eagerness or reluctance, into the vastness and depths of shoreless Love. 


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