In the midst of the holiday season, there is an event that has become its own quiet holiday in my heart: the king tide.
Once a year, the sun and moon align perfectly, thus combining their gravitational pull on the tides. The king tide is the pairing of the highest and lowest tides of the entire year. For the past five or six years, I have looked forward to this tide like a child looks forward to Christmas.
In the quiet, salty air, you get to poke around to see what happens all the time in the tide pools beyond our gaze. There are whole worlds down there in small crevices that the Lord constantly sees and enjoys but we get to see a few times a year.
Simply by reading the tide charts, you can pinpoint the absolute lowest and highest points of the year down to the minute and the meter. Doing so made me wish the weather and tides of souls were so precisely predicted.
Madeline L’Engle’s poem “To a Long Loved Love 3” talks about the peculiarities of the weather of the soul.
“I know why a star gives light
Shining quietly in the night;
Arithmetic helps me unravel
The hours and years this light must travel
To penetrate our atmosphere.
I count the craters on the moon
With telescopes to make them clear.
With delicate instruments I measure
Secrets of barometric pressure.
Therefore I find it inexpressibly queer
That with my own soul I am out of tune,
That I have not stumbled on the art
Of forecasting the weather of the heart.”
L’Engle’s wishing for instruments that can solve and predict the mysterious weather of her own soul resonates with me, especially during the holiday season, especially when I think of the king tides.
If only we could read a chart to discern our souls’ yearly king tides, we might find the strong pull back and the powerful push forward exhilarating rather than exhausting and scary. We could brace for them; we could count and celebrate each demarcation line.
But God has not seen fit to give us such a chart. He prefers we live by faith and in dependence day by day. We don’t know when the a storm will settle in our souls; we don’t know the peaks until we reach them; we don’t know how long we must sit in low tide before recession reverses to procession.
If I don’t know this about my own soul, I most assuredly cannot predict or understand the mysterious weather of the souls who share my household. Yet, so often, I try. I feel such pressure during the holidays and on breaks to have all our high tides align in glorious evenings together. I want to know their low tide times so I can prepare to love and serve them well.
But neither I nor they are so predictable. This reality forces me to move from attempts at control to a posture of care for all the distinct soul atmospheres in my family.
God did not task me as their mother with being the regulator of their moods and tides, as if sentient souls could be directed with an air traffic controller. Thank goodness! If he had there would be wreckage everywhere. I am not qualified for such a role. Only God can go to those sacred spaces (1 Corinthians 2:10-11; Romans 8: 26-27).
God invites me to step toward the weather of their souls (and my own) with what Eugene Peterson calls, “a stance of wonderment.”
The physical practice of enjoying the king tide this year reminded me that God alone is the King of tides, both physically and spiritually.
He is not scared by the storms that come upon me or them. He speaks into such chaos, calming soul storms just as spoke over the squalls on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).
It is his to control and mine to yield, wonder, and trust.