Have you ever taken on a challenge and later found yourself wondering if it was worth it? Maybe things weren't so bad the way they were. Maybe you could have gone on bearing the tiny inconveniences and daily struggles and saved yourself the effort. Maybe... but maybe not. Work, relationships, mental health, politics, social justice... when ISN'T this applicable. As I walked the beach, watching the surf roll in and out, I saw these struggles manifested in the waves.
As we step into the sea, we are met with unnumbered challenges. Tiny waves of cold biting water lap at our ankles. The tide pulls us left and right. Each ripple is a fight; each one is something to conquer or endure. While not monumental, four to six inches in height at best, they are there in abundance. The shallow waters are deceivingly welcoming yet full of small, incessant challenges.
Some people will stay here in the shallows, never drowning but never at peace. Just enduring.
Others will be called deeper, bracing chilling, bitter attacks from the growing waves. Some of us can't help but take on the challenge.
The deeper we tread into the sea, the larger and more intimidating the challenge becomes. Wave after wave rolls inward, reaching skywards with daunting force, threatening to overtake us where we stand. Each challenge comes with more momentum and, with it, greater risk. As we swim out towards them, we are accepting the risk of being pulled under by the force.
Yet, in many ways, the fight becomes easier. There is no longer an option to simply ignore the waves but rather, we must make a choice: over or under, endure or conquer. We have no choice but to bear witness to our challenge and feel the decision as it either washes over or crumbles beneath us.
Going over, conquering your struggle, or going under, feeling and enduring the pain, are both viable and worthy options. Each works in its own way with different outcomes. As each wave comes, we make a choice and then it ends and, eventually, we make it past the breakers. Here the sea grows less angry. We've been submerged and have survived, and now the waves ease and soften. They roll past, reminding us of our journey and even presenting small challenges still, but with far less force. As we adjust to this new depth, we learn (and have learned) to float.
After these challenges, being beaten back and berated and plunging into the cold water, what's the reward? Was it worth it? As we float in deep, giving waters, worlds away from the shallows, you start to see it. This is the reward.