Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

Here is Love Vast as the Ocean

Staring into the wide expanse of the ocean makes you feel small. It makes you realize how unbelievably tiny you are in comparison to this body of water that stretches around the entire globe. There is no way to take it all in, really. You just stare and watch the waterline fade into the horizon. And then you make a feeble attempt to take in the width but realize that your peripheral vision isn’t even partially capable of such a task. It is truly breathtaking, this vast ocean of ours.

13950605_10102747208025448_1229785587_oSo it is with God’s love for us.

In all of this summer ocean-staring and attempting to take it all in, my heart continues to go back to this old hymn:

Here is love, vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

(source)

Can you imagine a love so grand? Yeah me neither. But it’s real. So very real.

But the part of that hymn that just brings chills to the surface of my skin and tears into the corners of my eyes are the last lines:

Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

My heart falls down in absolute humble awe that even in Heaven where all the old things have passed away and the new things have come, we will still remember. Even then, even in our new bodies and new frames of mind and new states of perfection we will remember what Christ did for us on the cross. What oh what will that reality even feel like? To be walking side by side with the very reason you are living in that inexplicable paradise … what will that feel like? I think maybe my heart has had the teensiest glimpse.

I remember the process of giving birth to my firstborn like it was yesterday. Like many optimistic first-time moms I had committed to a plan of an all-natural, no intervention, non-medicated birth. I wanted midwives and not OB docs for my care and dreamed about a beautiful water-birth for my infant son, a gentle transition from womb to world as they say. They were worthy aspirations. But again, like all optimistic first-time moms, I had no idea how intense the birthing process actually was.

When we arrived at the hospital at around 6:45 am I had already been laboring all night, since about 8:30 pm the evening before. I was tired because, hello, who can sleep when they think their first baby is on the way, and also feeling exhausted from the contractions. I was absolutely certain this baby would be popping out moments after we arrived. I couldn’t imagine more intense pain or any longer amount of time laboring than what I had already done. Surely this was the end.

When the midwife checked me I was a disappointing 3 cm dilated. Let me repeat … three. After all that time my body had only dilated to a measly three centimeters. I felt defeated before I had even really started.

I remember the midwife providing a few different options for how we could get my body to dilate faster. I also distinctly remember telling her I was so tired and done and just wanted a c-section. “Just cut me open and get this baby out!” I whimpered. She smiled gently and reminded me that a c-section recovery is much harder than recovery from a natural delivery and that we should just proceed¬†with one of the methods she had suggested. I nodded my head in reluctant agreement.

It was decided that the best thing for my body was to let it rest and see if I progressed a bit further on my own. They loaded me up on an IV dose of benadryl so I could sleep and gave me a small amount of pain meds to relax my body a bit more in the hopes that the contractions would do what they were supposed to and this baby would indeed be born later that day.

I remember waking up to the most intense contractions I had felt until that point. And then, because I was so zonked on benadryl, I would fall back asleep for about a minute only to awake to another painful contraction. It was basically the worst nap ever. But this method worked and I dilated to about 5 cm. Tara, the midwife, felt confident that this was real labor and my body was slowly but steadily working to bring this baby boy into the world.

During one contraction I tensed up so much and my natural inclination was to pull my shoulders up toward my ears and grimace through it. Tara put her hand on my shoulder and whispered softly, “Don’t tense up, just relax and breathe.” Oh how I needed her.

The day was far from over. Tara continued to coach me through many contractions, allowed me to labor in the blessed birthing tub for about an hour, and was kindly assertive in directing me through what ended up being five minutes short of pushing for two hours. Finally, at 4:25 pm, almost twenty hours since that first contraction, I held my newborn son close to my chest and marveled at what I had just accomplished. The moment was equally as euphoric as it was surreal.

A few days later as I reflected on my son’s birth story with my husband I was overcome with thankfulness for Tara and how she had brought me through the most difficult experience of my life. I remember telling him, “Josh, I know this sounds crazy but, if Tara asked me to rob a bank with her, I seriously might do it!” If course I was joking – breaking the law really isn’t my thing – but the sentiment was real. This woman had helped me accomplish my goal of all-natural childbirth and assisted in bringing forth my tiny little blessing and I felt like she deserved my loyalty.

A few months after Micah was born I actually ran into Tara at Target and was literally speechless. I stumbled and fumbled over my words trying to communicate how much I loved being a mommy and how much she meant to me, helping me through that crazy first-time birthing experience. I fought back tears as I gushed to her in a way that can only be described as starstruck; she was Justin Bieber and I was the drooling sixteen-year old girl in the front row of the concert who had “Mrs. Bieber” written on all of her school notebooks. When I needed her most this woman came through for me to help me accomplish something huge. I don’t know if she’ll ever know how grateful I truly am for what she did for me.

Tara is human and certainly the monumental task she helped me accomplish elevates her to superhuman status, at least in my eyes. But the gratefulness I felt was real and I truly don’t know if I would have been able to reach my goal without her. And I think what I felt and still feel for her is a pin-dot glimpse of what it might feel like to see Jesus and walk arm in arm with Him on the golden streets of Heaven.

Jesus rescued me from a life of sadness and despair. He gave purpose to my pain. Everyday He gives me strength to live with self-control and joy when I am so prone to losing it and living as an angsty tumbleweed of misery. His death on the cross gives me hope that my past won’t define me, my present is worthy of living, and my future has hope. And He extends this to all of my loved ones and to you as well.¬†How can we even comprehend a love so vast?

I suppose that’s why we will never forget, even in Heaven. We will be starstruck walking next to the One whose very blood is the reason we are there. We will gush and tell Him about all the ways He helped us and transformed us while we were on earth. Old things may be gone but we will always see those scars in His hands and through His side. And they will always serve as a reminder of the great love of the Father and of the Son who was willing to die for us; love as vast as the ocean and everlasting to everlasting.

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