Suspicions be damned. Know this:
He gave His decree to the Sea
when He appointed the foundations of the earth,
that the waters should not pass His commandment.
Do you not fear me? says the Lord:
I have placed the sand as the bound of the Sea
by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it:
and though the waves toss,
they cannot prevail; though they roar,
they cannot pass over it.
We do not pass over His commandments
without crossing that sandy, sun-scorched bound
into the refreshment of cool waves which are death to drink.
We wade out and dig into the shelf; we plant our feet
like anchors, our torsos rising up from the water
like the pilings of a dock, stable against the surf.
A swell rolls past and breaks on the shore behind,
and its receding rush grabs at the backs of our ankles,
wrenches us loose from the bottom, and far out;
down, down into the Great Deep.
Rolling blind beneath the surface,
we breathe the icy brine. We are become part,
indistinguishable from that seething mass
without form and void. We are the roaring,
wild waves, casting up foam of our shame.
And the Spirit of the Lord was hovering
over the face of the Deep.
Here, in the deep water, Simon Peter casts out his nets.
The apostle hauls us to the surface and heaves us in.
We who had thought to make our home with Leviathan
thrash like dying fish on the floor of Peter’s boat.
We choke the saltwater from our lungs and
our chests seared by the saving breath.
We mouth soundlessly from the net: Oh, oh, oh. . . .
Against those hard, wooden boards,
we feel our bones again and know our shape.
Our eyes are wide and round, but less
unblinking than a fish’s eye. Our pupils narrow;
it is bright on the shadeless surface of the waters.
He who gives the perpetual decree,
whose commandment cannot be passed,
and in whose presence all Creation does rightly tremble;
His decree was that Simon Peter cast out into the deep water,
to put the light in your eyes; his commandment was
to put the saving breath in your lungs.
Suspicions be damned. Know this.
Matthew Cordella-Bontrager is a member of Yellow Creek Mennonite Church and lives to the west of Goshen in Elkhart County, IN.