“If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”
I have loved this lyric from John Mark McMillan’s song “How He Loves” since the moment I first heard it. Perhaps it’s because of my love of the ocean, which so easily brings the word picture to life. Or maybe it’s because the word picture meets my desperate need to understand the unlimited nature of grace.
For most of my life, if I thought of grace as an ocean at all, I pictured myself near the shore. I could experience grace washing over me with each wave, but my own sin would push me back toward the sand. I was convinced I moved in and out of grace with each choice.
I was also convinced that this ocean of grace was small and shallow. I had to be careful, or I might use it up by sinning too much. I grew terrified of the day when I’d find nothing but dry sand where an ocean had once been.
But then I heard those words: “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” Suddenly I was remembering all the moments I’d spent at the beach, recalling what an ocean looks like.
Have you ever stood at the edge of the ocean, attempting to take in its vastness? It’s an overwhelming feeling to stare at the horizon. That dividing line between sky and water seems so far away. And yet, even more water lies beyond it. The ocean seems never-ending.
If you step off the shore and into the water, your perspective shifts and becomes even more overwhelming. As you move past the waves breaking on the sand into the calmer water beyond, you can float in this seemingly endless ocean. Now the water surrounds you, and the horizon feels unreachable.
Most likely you won’t venture farther than where you can stand. We tend to stay where we can still feel the sand below—even if it’s just with the tips of our toes—while keeping our heads above water. Here at the edge of safety, we’re still somewhat in control. We can turn around and head to shore if it becomes necessary. This is not where sinking happens.
To truly understand what McMillan is describing, I picture myself alone in the middle of the ocean. I have no boat to keep me floating on the surface, no life vest to keep my head above water. Whichever way I turn, I see nothing but water. I could choose a direction and swim in it, but I’d tire long before I even saw land.
Besides the breadth of the ocean, there’s the depth. Wikipedia says the deepest spot in the ocean is nearly 38,000 feet. I could never get to the bottom on my own strength. I’m also certain it would take an impossibly long time to drain dry an ocean that deep.
Grace is a vast ocean of immeasurable breadth and depth. We cannot swim out of it. We cannot use it up. Our only option is to sink into it, to let it cover us completely. We relinquish control and let it pull us in. We breathe deeply and do not drown. We revel in its unlimitedness and thank our God for his goodness.
Katie Mumper is a daughter, sister, friend, writer, and singer. She loves Jesus, music, books, and great TV shows. Because she’s far from perfect, she is grateful for God’s grace in her life. She writes with the hope that others might be encouraged to let God make them new as well. You can read more of her work at beautyrestored.me.
Photograph © Bethany Beams, used with permission