Ebb and Flow

During the summer months many folks head to the beach and delight to get their feet wet! Some of us love visiting the coast in the winter months when wind and wave combine to battle the coastline. I find that the noise of the ebb and flow of wave can be inspiring and stimulating, both by its sound and silence, as waves crash in and pause as if for breath before crashing a second and third time, ad infinitum! The Welsh poet RS Thomas, to whom I turn often, compares the ebb and flow of the wave to the unending work of prayer. I would be surprised if I have not already shared the following poem in this blog. However, sometimes it is good to return to those favorites. I return today like a wave, giving you an opportunity to hear the sound and the silence of Thomas’s words and thoughts. Thomas created this evocative image of prayer as a wave with it’s relentless ebb and flow. In honor of Thomas the photo above is from Wales, although not the north west coastline which was home for him. In his words he reveals the persistent, patient progress in the life quest for God. His poem persuasively and poignantly validates hesitation and hopefulness. This poem also reminds us of the hymn from the late 1700s “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee” Take this poem with you when you next visit the coastline or the beach and not only get your feet wet, go in deep and have your “soul” washed and refreshed by the waves of God’s grace. Enjoy!


The waves run up the shore
and fall back. I run
up the approaches of God
and fall back. The breakers return
reaching a little further,
gnawing away at the main land.
They have done this thousands
of years, exposing little by little
the rock under the soil’s face.
I must imitate them only
in my return to the assault,
not in their violence. Dashing
my prayers at him will achieve
little other than the exposure
of the rock under his surface.
My returns must be made
on my knees. Let despair be known
as my ebb-tide; but let prayer
have its springs, too, brimming,
disarming him; discovering somewhere
among his fissures deposits of mercy
where trust may take root and grow. RS Thomas

Lord God, you are to me
a Rock of Ages. Solid in your love,
gentle in your grace.
Often I feel as the poet Thomas felt.
Over and again
approaching you with the same prayer.
Today I again make this prayer.
Hear my prayer, which at times is formed by words,
and at times shaped by the steady beat of my heart. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Ebb and Flow

  1. This reminded me of the book “Tides and Seasons” (Modern prayers in the Celtic tradition, by Rev David Adam, Vicar of Holy Island (Lindisfarne) 1989,

    Low Tide being Winter, (as one nears the end of earthly life)….

    “It is your tide that pulls me Lord, Draw me to yourself.

    When one tide ebbs another flows. Nothing is lost, only it suffers a tide change.

    Lord of life when the tides wane Grant me a hand till I rise again When the strand is becoming wide Keep me safe at the ebb tide.”

    June M.


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