Recently I found myself far from New York City on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. For the better part of an hour, I sat on one of those fabulous rocky beaches staring at a tidal pool. I had to. We don't have tidal pools on the East Coast. Jelly fish, sharks and "no-see-ums," but not tidal pools.
There's beautiful sea life in these pools: starfish, barnacles, sea anemones. There's also a lot of drama - not unlike human drama.
For example, in the middle of the pool were two tiny crabs having a knock-down-drag-out fight over some raggedy piece of seaweed. Since there were limited treats in this tiny pool, the seaweed was a special find.
Their fight would have made WWF proud. One would smack the other over the head with his claw and then crawl away with the seaweed. The other would then chase him down, hit him back and recover the seaweed.
Over and over this went on -- like two little kids fighting over toys in the sandbox; or like nations fighting over their own version of seaweed: land, water, oil ... Whether you're a crab or a world leader, when there's a perceived shortage of anything, people and critters tend to get testy.
I was mesmerized by these little fighting crabs. Eventually, though, I tore myself away from the crab fight and noticed above the crabs were two tiny minnows swimming round and round. They seemed utterly lost and confused. Then again, who could blame them? One minute they were happily swimming in their big, wide Pacific home; the next the tide goes out and imprisons them in this tiny rock pool - made tinier because of the annoying crab fight going on at the bottom. They just swam in circles desperately trying to find their way home.
After watching for a few more minutes, I stood up to leave. Then I noticed one last thing in the pool. I hadn't seen it at first, but on second glance, crouched behind a barnacle in the corner of the pool was a tiny hermit crab. I noticed him because he had just poked his eyes out of the shell and was peering around. Contrary to their names, hermit crabs are very social little animals that love to live in groups. As he looked around, I realized there were no other hermit crabs in the pool. Perhaps I am projecting, but I swear a little crab tear came out and he slowly retracted back to hide in his lonely little shell.
After a few more minutes of observing this little pool and thinking how beautifully philosophic it all was, a wave broke over the rocks and poured water into the pool and all over me.
The tide had turned bringing all nature of gifts.
I looked down in the little pool and sure enough the wave had brought in more seaweed and the crabs had quit fighting.
The minnows had been washed back to sea, finding their way home.
And the hermit crab now had two new friends.
I walked back and sat on the beach and watched as the tide slowly came in, eventually covering the whole area. In the end, what had seemed to be hundreds of separate little tidal pools had been covered and joined in one big sea of life.
Humans are no different. We all get caught up in our own little tidal pools; tidal pools of anger, confusion, or loneliness. But we have to remember, like that long stretch of rocky beach, ours isn't the only tidal pool in town.
No matter where you find yourself, whether angry, lost, or alone, there are others like you out there; others who walk the same path, others who suffer, others who know our pain. We are joined in one big sea of life. Yet when all seems hopeless, when all appears to be gone, remember the tide will turn and life abundant, like the sea, will flood back into our lives.
In the words of our lectionary Psalm this week: " ... I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning ... For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem."