Magazine Articles


Dear Friends

Just a few days ago my school-friend and I stood on the shore opposite Holy Island.  It was nowhere to be seen, obliterated by mist.  A heron prodded around on the shore line, and a single gull perched on a post.  Cars were queuing to start on a crossing of the causeway as soon as it was safe to do so: the tide was on the ebb. 

We had almost reached the end of our journey; nearly seventy miles of green lanes, moorland and flat fens were behind us.  We had walked the way of St Cuthbert, taking in the ancient abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh on the way, visiting the cave where Cuthbert’s body was hidden at the time of the Viking raids.  Cuthbert was one of the “striding Saints” who walked paths and tracks from one side of the country to the other preaching and teaching the Gospel.  He became abbot of Lindisfarne when he was 50 years old in 698 an  was present at the synod of Whitby when the Roman rite replaced the Celtic one.  Our walk had brought us into the world of Celtic Christianity with its rural rhythms and now we were brought to a standstill by the tidal flow of the North Sea

It was good to have time to reflect upon the walk, to anticipate its end and to consider the tides and the mist.  Like so many things in life, neither the tides nor the weather are under our control.  However this does not sit well with our 21st century philosophy of life at the touch of a button and instant gratification.  Of course living near the sea, we are far more aware of the tides than those living inland, but few of us are inconvenienced by them.

It was significant to be restricted by the tide at the end of our walk for we speak both of the pilgrimage of life and of the tide of life  Like the daily turns of the tides, our lives ebb and flow on shorter cycles: yearly monthly or weekly perhaps.  When we live in tune with God each new day can bring us fresh experiences, bring in new treasures from the depths of the ocean, new wonders for us to explore and possibly new dangers too.  It is up to us to take advantage of them, to live our life on the flood as it were, deepening our understanding of those treasures which are presented to us in chances and opportunities, being in harmony with our creation and its creator.  But perhaps all does not go well.  It may feel as if God’s love and the love of others are ebbing away from us, disappearing into the mists, we all washed up.  Then we are at our most vulnerable and exposed like the rocks.  Low tide reveals a different aspect, the bare sand or shingle may provide a quiet time for the sort of contemplation when hidden wonderful and unexpected things are exposed.   And yet we know that this is only a temporary state, for the tide of our life will turn, changes will come and the glory and the power of the waves will come again, albeit perhaps on a different shore.

So this holiday time, if you are on the beach, watching the waves, perhaps you can contemplate the tidal rhythms of your life.  What are the new riches which are being brought to you by the incoming tide, how will you explore them, what can you do with them and are they bringing any dangers?   Is the ebb tide dragging away rubbish or things of value, and what could you make, with God’s help, from the apparently empty shore?  

David Adam, who was vicar of Lindisfarne for many years, wrote:

Some things in life ebb as others flow and some things flow and others ebb.

Lord, let my praises never reach an ebb tide.

Happy Holidays!

With best wishes from Helen.