Ruled by the Riptide

“Why did you let me run around the beach naked?”

Our now 10-year-old baby was offended.

Nearly a decade ago now, for a tough, confusing, amazing 13 months we lived, and I worked in South Florida. Days like today in KC, I’m questioning our decision to come home.

She scrolled to the very top of my iPhone photo album to dig up the memory.

“I don’t know sugar, I’m assuming you got sand in your swim diaper or something, but you looked so cute.”

“Dad, that’s literally embarrassing.”

Literally gets spoken dozens of times a day in our house. Literally.

Despite many of the tough memories from that stretch of our story, those beach pictures never get old.

The kids were much younger then, when we felt like we had more control (we didn’t of course). After work, at least once a week, we’d scoop them up in their car seats, grab 4 burrito bowls from Chipotle for the 7 of us to share, and hit the beach for sundown.

We were 15 minutes from the sea.

With 5 kids under 10 at the time, dinner time on the beach was always an adventure. And usually a disaster to some degree.

Sand in the rice. Fights over chips. Feeding the seagulls.

But regardless, we’d always end up in the water. Playing. Splashing. Somewhat forgetting the raging current of anxiety and uncertainty that was facing us financially and professionally.

The sea is a powerful teacher.

In all its beauty, peace, and glory, it has equal parts terror, paranoia, and power.

“Is there a shark?”

“What just hit my leg?”

“I think I just stepped on a jellyfish.”

“This salt water is burning my eyes.”

“Why doesn’t the baby have any clothes on?”

“Careful kids, or you might get caught in a riptide and end up a million miles from shore.”

We’re kinda like those waters, huh?

In our life and leadership, relationships and responsibilities, identities and imaginations, seeing the amazing things on the surface, but knowing the seas are storming underneath.

The fear of not being enough.

The panic of running out of money, ideas, or influence.

The anxiety of being found out.

The raging current of insecurity and anger.

Sometimes we can’t quite put our finger on what it is, but it doesn’t lessen its rule.

Its dark, powerful, certain rule.

I used to think that power and darkness was “bad”. But as I’ve gotten tossed and turned by it though, I’m starting to shift my perspective ever so slightly.

The riptide is going to rule whether we acknowledge it or not. And usually when we allow it to rule but pretend it doesn’t exist, those are when we’re at our most danger.

It seems more like an invitation to sail now. To go under and open your eyes, despite the burn, and see what lives down there. What monsters of the sea are lurking, just waiting to be named, identified, and ultimately then, set free.

But seeing and surrendering to it, instead of denying its presence, perhaps that’s where life, and freedom, is found.

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