A few summers ago a friend called me up with what I thought was a preposterous idea. She wanted me to take a morning off and go with her to the beach. My morning schedule rose before my eyes. After the kids are off I need to clean up the bedrooms, clear up from breakfast, wash laundry, take care of some bills and phone calls, run a few errands, start preparing supper, etc.
For me it simply made no sense. There was no way I could just take a morning off. And then I stopped myself and thought it over. I work hard. Each day is a full day, centered on my family and their needs. Isn’t it okay to take some time for myself?
Suddenly I had visions of a beautiful sunny sky. Sparkling blue water and waves crashing at the shore. And I would be there by myself. At a private beach. With just myself and my friend. No children going too far out, no toddler moaning because of an overturned sand castle and no baby crying for his bottle. This would be a vacation for me. A onetime, three-hour vacation. I decided to go for it.
And so the next morning I waved a cheery goodbye to my older children, dropped off the younger ones, and then I was ready for my well-deserved break. I quickly threw together my bathing cap, towel and water bottle, and we were off.
I felt like a young child as we parked the car and ran into the sand. It felt delicious to have the warm sand between our toes. We laughed and giggled as we came closer to the water. And like carefree children we shrieked in delight as we jumped into the crashing waves.
At first I felt a little intimidated by those large waves and hung back closer to the shore. I watched and admired my friend’s fearlessness as she gracefully jumped into each wave. Determined to make the most of my well-deserved break, I caught up to her and commented on her bravery for jumping into these large roaring waves. She laughingly replied that there is no need to fear; you just have to decide if you will let the wave ride you or if you will ride the wave. And then she jumped right into the oncoming wave.
For me the light moment suddenly took a more serious turn. How right she was. But not just about the waves in the ocean – also about the waves in our lives. We all have those bad days, those difficult moments and painful revelations. It is so easy to sink into self-pity; it’s so easy to moan and groan about life’s unfairness. But it’s at such moments that we have to take an honest look at ourselves and ask, “What does Hashem want from me now?” It is at moments like these that we must draw strength from our realization that everything is from Hashem. If we trust in Him and do what we know He wants us to do, then we are not letting life’s waves ride us, but rather, we are riding the waves.
In between bobbing in and out of the waves I shared this thought with my friend. Before she could respond she went back down and under that strong, strong surf, only to resurface a moment later.
When she came up again, she laughingly said, “You see? At times you think you are going under, but you always come right back up.”
How true! Don’t we all feel like we are drowning sometimes? Aren’t we all familiar with that feeling of suffocation when painful waves of challenge overcome us? But as believing Jews, we are resilient. As long as we look inward, we are riding the waves, and we will come back up.
We continued frolicking in the ocean a little longer. We then came out and lay under the sun’s warm rays. We were peacefully relaxing as the seagulls flew around us, and once again I thought of Hashem’s strength. Only nine months before, Hurricane Sandy had rolled in, and these waves had turned ferocious, destroying almost everything in their path. Today the beach was a safe place to be. Today the sun was shining and beautiful. But Hashem could have just as easily made the weather cloudy and rainy, keeping us indoors. It really is true. We need to draw strength from Him because He can make anything happen. He can change difficult situations instantly.
We got home, and I went straight back to the mundane. But I felt light and invigorated. This vacation had done me good – in more ways than one.