The term “sea change” is a metaphor. It describes dramatic, even cataclysmic, transformations of policies, practices, or perspective.
We saw two sea changes on a Dolphin Tour in Florida. When our two decked glass bottomed vessel left the dock at “the world’s luckiest fishing village,” we explored Choctawatchee Bay, circled Crab Island, and moved through the East Pass.
Those waters support redfish, speckled trout, shrimp, oysters, blue crabs, flounder, striped mullets, and the ever-delightful dolphins.
Crab Island is a sandbar covered by shallow waters where in season hundreds of boats, rafts, kayaks, and waders frolic. Floating water slides and restaurants with names like Crab Island Boiled Peanuts, Ridiculous BBQ, Sea Cow Ice Cream and Smoothies, Jimmy’s Ice Cream & T-Shirts, and the Crab Island General Store, keep vacationers wet, happy and well fed.
But newer local politics and ordinances put most of the floating facilities on Crab Island out of business. The dramatic altering of Crab Island ambiance was the first of two “sea changes” we observed.
The second was spotted where East Pass connects Choctawatchee Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. It was if an immense sunken wall separated the waters of the bay from the waters of the Gulf. On one side, the waters were dark and rippled. On the other side, they were a lighter blue and smoother. A literal sea change!
Now in mid-October days we delight in the seasonal changes all around us. Spring serves as a gentle introduction to Summer. Then Fall bridges Summer to Winter and treats us to pallets of colorful leaves and ripened fields.
A “Family Circus” cartoon by Jeff Keane shows a girl child ‘splaining to her brother, “When summer gets finished here, it goes to visit South America!”
As Summer finishes with us this year, the seasons of change we are experiencing will not scamper to South America. We face unprecedented barriers to the comfortable, civil and charitable times we cherish. Legislative divisiveness, a widening chasm of unlimited privilege for some and deepening poverty for too many others, a re-emergence of latent and strident racism, and our failures of thoughtful listening, truth telling and trust, blur our idealistic visions of beloved community and detour our search for the common good.
Grace Lee Boggs describes the scene succinctly this way: “We need a vision that recognizes we are at one of the great turning points in human history when ….. the restoration of our humanity require(s) a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”
On a more personal basis, many of us can mark the moments when the course of family life, decision making, and even the quality of our experiences have been transformed.
In my family, for example, the “world” changed when mother suffered debilitating brain injuries in an auto accident. In an instant her vibrant presence in the family structure was replaced by a person in critical need of constant care for the rest of her life.
When my father could no longer handle her care on his own, we moved mother into our home. Now my wife became the chief caregiver, not only for my mother, but for her own mother who had not flourished after a heart attack claimed her husband while both were visiting us six days after the birth of our son.
Two mothers, one physically and cognitively disabled, two young children, a spouse trying to manage ministry in an understaffed large membership congregation, put incredible stress on my wife’s plate.
Add the arrival of our adopted South Korean child, the unexpected death of the healthier mother, the steadily intensifying needs of the disabled mother, and it felt like enormous challenging waves were constantly crashing on our emotional shores.
There are those times in our experience when we see our lives materially altered by sea changes which buffet us. What we learned was that in order to craft a new season in the midst of sea changes, we needed to seize the changes.
We did so by turning to United Church Homes. At the UCH “motherhouse” in Upper Sandusky, mother received the skilled nursing care we could no longer provide, and an amiable community of seniors offered the companionship my father had lost with the injuries to his wife. Both parents died while in the care of our premiere senior community. But the crushing sea changes, which in a relatively short period of time exhausted our family, were marvelously managed by the ministries of United Church Homes.
The delightfully exuberant interpretation of Psalm 126 and Psalm 30 by Eugene Peterson in The Message reminds us Who else stands with us in this and every season of change:
It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when GOD returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune….
And now, GOD, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
(extracted from Psalm 126:1-6, The Message)
You did it:
you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
GOD, my God,
I can’t thank you enough.
_(from Psalm 30:11-12 The Message)