Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners

“Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners”

Jesus! What a help in sorrow! While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking, He my comfort, helps my soul.
Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.

While I have spent a few days on beaches in Hawaii and New England, and lived as a child close to the Atlantic beaches and marshy waterways of Charleston, and I’ve enjoyed Atlantic coast vacations from the Carolina barrier islands down to St. Augustine, I’m most familiar with Gulf Coast beaches. I’ve seen the waters stirred up ugly café au lait in front of a storm, foam blowing up onto the sand. I’ve seen them full of jellyfish or stinging nettles, too bothersome to play in. I’ve seen them placid as a lake, glassy green surface reflecting a yellow sun. And occasionally I’ve seen the perfect Gulf beach day, the one from all the tourism ads — azure sky, sapphire water, dazzling-white sand, even some waves breaking thirty yards out. And while I’ve been knocked down by the surf in Hanauma Bay, and cut to shreds by what passes for sand in the frigid surf on Wingaersheek Beach, this Gulf is my experience of the sea.

So when I picture sea billows rolling over me, I have no context from real life. And so I turn to the beautiful classic surfing films The Endless Summer and Morning of the Earth. Oh. Those billows. Wow. The kind of waves that carry tons of water volume in them, the kind that can crush you. Those. Even when life is doing to my heart what those waves do to surfers who catch the wrong edge, Jesus. Even then, Jesus. When I’ve had to let go control of what happens next — because, let’s face it, the wave is in control — even then, Jesus. When I am not sure when the end will be, or which way is up, and I’m not too sure the tumbling will stop, Jesus.

Saving, helping, keeping, loving. To the end.

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