At Duckpool on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, and probably in several other bays as well, is a sign warning potential bathers of three hazards:
Walking up the coast from the bay, I started musing on whether life (in that very overused phrase which crops up on a daily basis in the papers and magazines at this time of year) is in fact a beach, and how our walk with God, and the whole of our inner life, is at threat from the same three things:
Strong waves - big things which knock us off our feet - bereavement, a new child, being sacked, moving house, major illness. We cope either by having a firm enough place to stand that we don't get swamped, or if we do get swamped, by knowing which way is up, so that we can find air again.
Tides - the things which happen again and again. Just up the coast one little cove has had most of its sand dragged out to sea by the tides, leaving it much stonier and less hospitable. The tides aren't an obvious threat, but habits and repeated things can erode our walk with God, drag the energy out of us. They are also opportunities: low tide exposes things which are covered up the rest of the time, and low tide in our own energy levels or spiritual life can uncover things which, when we're stronger, we're good at hiding. On the 1st week of holiday I was very grumpy and short tempered, low tide showed this up, and the challenge is to deal with it now I'm feeling a bit more rested.
Undercurrents - things we can't see but which can drag us way off course. The way to cope with them is either stay away, or have a good anchor which keeps you in place. Without a strong life of prayer, the spiritual disciplines, the scriptures, we're dragged off course by the undercurrents of a culture which is in constant drift away from God.
I get the feeling there's a lot more mileage in this metaphor, perhaps I need another fortnight in Cornwall.