All the World's a Classroom

For the Love of the Ocean

After more than a month-long hiatus from blogging due to vacation and other things, my train of thought from previous posts seems to have flown into oblivion. So in an effort to regain some of it back, I thought I’d write about something that can tie in my vacation with a developing interest of mine: the ocean.

One of the most marvelous things in life is the capacity to wonder and be fascinated. Ever since two summers ago, but especially this past year, I’ve had a newfound love and fascination for the ocean and the marine life (hence, the oceanic object lessons in previous posts). It’s not that I just fell in love with the ocean – I’ve always loved the ocean since I was young – but I’ve only realized how much I actually love it recently. Something reverberates inside me when I see, watch, or read about the ocean and the marine life; something that I don’t get when I see land animals or birds. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time in the ocean since childhood, so there’s a special connection sort of speak. But it’s also because of the fact that the diversity in the ocean far exceeds any of the other living spaces. While land animals and birds have their general forms, sea animals are widely varied. I mean, their shapes and forms are way beyond imagination.

Perhaps, this newfound love is also more mature than before. When I was younger, my love of the ocean only extends to how much I love playing and swimming in it. But this one is of another nature. I am fascinated with everything that constitutes the ocean and the marine life, its dynamics and interplay with the human life, and naturally, I am in hate with whatever that destructs it.

For vacation this year, my family went to Orlando, Florida. Being predictable people, we went to the theme parks there because we love roller coasters and all that. Of course, we had to go to Disneyworld because we had never gone before, and it was fun. The complex was impressive and I was amazed at the power of human creativity. Some time ago, all of these things were just thoughts and concepts in someone’s mind… However, and maybe this is a sign of getting old, all that made up Disneyworld did not wow me as they used to, and I don’t think I’d come back, even though we didn’t see everything there.

But, something did wow me. We went to Discovery Cove and Sea World where we swam with fishes and rays, and saw many other magnificent creatures.[1] And these animals were much more awesome than any of the intricate designs that Disneyworld could offer. At one point, I was swimming above a leopard-patterned stingray whose wings extend farther than my two outstretched arms and following it for a good while. God’s creation is simply breathtaking.


Stingrays and Manta rays

Big Walrus video

Yet, there’s something more to this personal discovery than just a side fascination, because quite unexpectedly, the ocean proves to be a point of convergence that integrates aspects of my life that I’ve been trying to unite for many years. Many object lessons were gleaned from observing natural systems, which reveal both the originality, brilliance, and creativity of the Maker, as well as His discretion. Design principles emerge, which taught lessons and ethical values that I believe I should have as an engineer; the ocean made me look to God as my engineering and perhaps public policy instructor. In addition, delving into it is very enjoyable, providing great conversation topics. Basically for me, the ocean is where spirituality and academics meet, leisure and curiosity combine, wonder and reason converge. It’s funny how all of this just happened – it’s definitely a cool answer to prayer.

Now, I have added a few places that I want to visit on my life checklist for diving. Most of them are in my beloved home country, Indonesia.

Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Photo credit: Jeff Yonover.

[1] I’m still forming my opinions about these places and the enclosed animals.

Love and Commitment

The assurance of a calling is a precious thing indeed. This year, after two years of asking God why, I saw and understood with clarity why I am where I am right now, with all prevailing circumstances, as if a portion of faith truly became sight. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that I am where I need to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and it is a marvelous feeling to have this assurance as spiritual bedrock in my life.

Yet, it turns out that having this assurance is not all there is to it, because even though the assurance exists, it doesn’t mean that it feels marvelous in a sparkly and fireworks-y kind of way every day.

There are days when the assurance feels glorious. Usually, its first revelation heralds the honeymoon phase where your soul swells in gratitude every moment of your being. I’m glad to say, however, that once the honeymoon phase is over, these days still happen a lot. But there are the other days, when the sparkles and the magical dust settle, and you are left with the small and seemingly mundane things, and the question of faithfulness has nothing to do with your feeling or mood. On these days, the thought of your calling may elicit reactions such as the terrible “Ugh..” To make matters worse, you are tempted to look around and compare your calling with others’, and you end up transgressing the tenth commandment in a paradoxically sanctified (but not) kind of way, namely coveting other people’s calling.

Discontentment is like yeast. It starts with something so small, like a discouraging thought or a carelessly spoken word, but it can leaven an entire lump of spiritual life. But thankfully, unlike leavened bread, this spiritual leavening is not irreversible. And I think, the remedy for this condition, or even better, a way to avoid this whole thing, is a potion called love and commitment.

The thing that makes a calling grand is not so much in the calling itself, but in the Person behind the calling. He’s the reason why I responded to the calling in the first place. And so every day that I live, especially on those non-sparkly days, I need to remember my first love and renew my commitment. It is the Lord whom I have loved and committed my life to, and so whatever He says, I will do. He’s the One I love, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, and my love for the calling will come naturally via my love to the Person. “Every burden is light, for the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness.” (Steps to Christ, p. 59) I think this is what Jesus meant by “if you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Why of course, if you love someone, why wouldn’t you want to do everything that this person says?

There is something about re-expressing love and commitment verbally to the object of one’s affection that heals and silences questions in the heart. It gives one strength to bear hardships no matter what happens. So, why wouldn’t I do it every day?

…Obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love… Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” (Steps to Christ, p. 60)

The Edge of a Dream

What is it like

to wake up from your musing

to find the mist clearing up before your eyes

and see glimpses of the world beyond

What is it like

to stand at the edge of a dream

to discover that reality looks somewhat familiar

because you’ve seen it in your sleep

What is it like

to realize that talks of changing the world in times past

are not so far-fetched after all

and your hands can seize and mold the presence

What is it like

to awaken with a thrill in your heart

to feel its reverberation in your soul

and find that these are the days

when life is better than dreams

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