“Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea change
Into something rich and strange…”
—Ariel in The Tempest by William Shakespeare
We are in the process of making some big and scary life decisions. It’s harder than I thought. I like to believe I am a dandelion: blow me in any direction and I’ll thrive wherever I land. To be perfectly honest, I’ve become rather comfortable—no, spoiled—in my current circumstances. I was raised in a house where little was stable: feast or famine finances, moves every couple of years that meant changing houses, neighborhoods, cities, states, or even countries. I got used to adapting to new schools, new environs, new friends. But what I have treasured in my stable and happy adulthood is how stable and happy it is! I married my high school sweetheart and we settled into a wonderful, predictable life together. Despite adding a few “surprises” to our family and an interstate move a few years ago, it has been relatively smooth sailing, and our lives have become increasingly more comfortable and happy. So why would we abandon our safe and cozy life? Yet that is just what we propose: we’ll sell or give away ninety percent of our belongings and move our four young children aboard a large catamaran and maybe sail around the world. No big deal, right?
Somewhere between calling the yacht broker and signing on the dotted line, I got cold feet. I suddenly decided I didn’t want to trade words like “safe” and “boring” for “risk” and “adventure.” My whole being cried out in fear of losing the comfy-cozy shell it’s built around itself to insulate it from pain and hardship. I like things the way I like them. Though I hate to admit it, I like to be in control. I want what I don’t want. I want to live a wild, free, unfettered life—as long as I can control it. But the sea cannot be tamed. This is the thing that simultaneously attracts and repels us, and will slowly do its work on our safe and easy existence and transform it into a self-sufficient, exciting journey.
But just like in Ariel’s haunting song, this sea change doesn’t happen without death first. And so, in order to move forward despite my fear, I had to die. And I may have to do so again a hundred times. I thought the adventure starts when we bring the boat home—or, rather, the home to the boat—and we set sail. Who knew that it took so much courage just to initiate the process? Not I. As I wrestled with panic, the desire to bolt in the other direction, I realized I would need courage just to say “yes, I’ll try it.”
The night I first died, I called a friend who lovingly coaxed me away from the edge. I hung up the phone, prayed through the anxiety, and finally fell asleep. I awoke the next morning—imagine my surprise—resurrected! The sun shone, the dew sparkled, the birds sang, and my heart with them. What do I really need in this world, anyway? The trappings I was so afraid to lose had lost their luster overnight and I was ready to leave the nest and fly away.
I have begun to realize that the very thing I thought I hated about my childhood is the very thing that will serve me best in a future life afloat: in a word, the ability to adapt. I wasn’t in control then, and I’m not now. How like my Father, the Sovereign King! In charge of all circumstances, He uses the things we hate, the things in our past we run away from, our pain, our shame, even our sin—and changes it into something useful in his kingdom! That is the crucifixion and resurrection, reenacted daily in the lives of his followers everywhere. It’s a terrible and glorious process: our flesh, put to death, is transformed into something “rich and strange.”