Sea Walls

We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this—through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication—we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor, a sanctuary away from crippling turmoil and pain, but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness. ~ Kay Redfield Jamison

If you’ve spent much time by the ocean, you understand the importance of sea walls. If the walls are too high, they prevent the tidal influx of new salt water replacing the old and the harbors and coves become brackish. But to live without the sea walls altogether would mean certain devastation.

Part of maintaining the shore line is to build sea walls. Part of maintaining the heart is to build healthy boundaries. It’s tricky. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor …  but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh seawater that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness.

When we shut ourselves off from the insight and input of others, we become brackish. Brackish water is the habitat of creatures like catfish and gar and eel and puffer fish. It has a peculiar smell.

I returned from a week without internet to some distressing emails. We all know about online bullying. There’s also online God-ing. Some of my blogger friends have been crushed by people speaking to them for God, exhorting them for God, correcting them for God.

While most of us are interested in other perspectives and welcome a lively exchange of ideas, we’re also rather vulnerable to the unanticipated rogue wave that crashes across our sea wall. Just like after a Tsunami, the natural reaction is to build higher and higher walls, or to give up and walk away, devastated and discouraged.

I’ve found God to be not only willing, but insistent, on speaking for Himself. It requires my full attention to sail my own ship. I won’t tell you how to sail yours.

Dear Melissa @ iamnotshe has nominated me for the 7×7 Link Award (I’ve accepted it before but I didn’t do the linking part). I’ve decided to fulfill the linking to 7 of my posts in the following way: when there’s a topic that 2 minutes won’t accommodate, I’ll link to a previous post to supplement my thinking, beginning with one for this post: You’re Not It.

May we all be mindful of crashing through another’s sea wall.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

48 thoughts on “Sea Walls”

  1. Debbie, you have such a gentle, clear voice that cuts right through to the heart of the matter like a hug. I love your sea wall metaphor. It made me think of Natalie Merchant’s song, Build A Levee. The chorus says:

    “You gotta build yourself a levee deep inside. Gotta build yourself a levee deep inside. Build yourself a levee girl when the waters run high.”

    Thanks for describing boundaries and their purpose in such a wonderful way. Icing on the cake…the Kaye Redfield Jamison quote. Another favorite author.

    1. Paulann – what a lovely phrase ‘cuts right to the heart of the matter like a hug’ – may I quote you?
      The Natale Merchant song is perfect. Sometimes we need a levee – just a little guidance on how high.
      I ready An Unquiet Mind shortly after it came out in ’95. I think I’ll reread it. Such a brilliant, vulnerable book. You must have read it, too?
      Thank you again, for your welcome contribution here. I’m honored that you visit.
      ~ Debbie

      “I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything but what it is. And I am, by nature, too mercurial to be anything but deeply wary of the grave unnaturalness involved in any attempt to exert too much control over essentially uncontrollable forces. There will always be propelling, disturbing elements, and they will be there until, as Lowell put it, the watch is taken from the wrist. It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one’s life, change the nature and direction of one’s work, and give final meaning and color to one’s loves and friendships.” Kay Redfield Jamisone

      1. Debbie, I thought I had responded to your comment, but it looks like I was dreaming. You are more than welcome to use the phrase. I guess I could say it is yours since it was describing you.

        I read An Unquiet Mind about the same time you did. I found her candor refreshing. It seemed to me at the time that she was good at painting a person’s behaviors, interactions, etc. as life, not just pathology. I have suggested it often. Have you read any of her others, Night Falls Fast, or Exuberance: The Passion for Life? I’m thinking it’s time for me to revisit all of the above. Thanks for the reminder.

        She also co-authored one of the more recent premiere textbooks on Bipolar Disorder, titled Manic-Depressive Illness.

  2. Debbie, i realized you were recommending “good reads” at the same time i was “checking out” my sanity. We both read a lot about people’s troubles, and we empathize quite strongly (or i should speak for myself, I OVER-empathize .. i feel like i’m catching stuff. NOT to minimize the pain of any and or all of our different battles in life … it’s just that “recovery” and life itself is truly up and down. Sometimes, if i don’t hear about down with the up i just assume it’s too hard to be that vulnerable. BECAUSE see what happens? If you put all your Woes out there … people want to help, or fix. I’m just getting all mixed up. I may write a post about my current dilemma: Blog-Diagnosing: Self inflicted! Are we cool, love?? xoxo m

  3. I am with Mel I hope I haven’t Godded anyone. I can barely hear my Gods voice now as it is ( I suppose I oughta take my hands off my ears)

    I can hear my heart and know I am NOT alone.

    I hear the shore too thanks to you!

    so glad you are back! XO Jen

    1. Hello dear Jen – it’s great to be back! Thanks!
      You and Mel are the seekers not Pharisees! No worries friend.
      As for the hands off the ears part, are you also humming? 🙂
      You are SO not alone and very much loved,

  4. Great comments on your post, Debbie–And I really like your phrase “wounded wing”; wonder if I might borrow it for a poem some day…?

  5. Since this post was inspired by the suffering of others and you weren’t talking about yourself, this is even more insightful and powerful. I love your gracious way with words. I probably would have just said, ‘find someone else to play your games’.

    1. Heidi – You wouldn’t have said that (you might have thought it, but you wouldn’t have said it)! 😉
      And you are always a champion of the wounded wing. I love that about you!
      ~ Debbie

  6. I truly enjoyed reading your post. It spoke to me in a positive way. I have built walls in the past, and I still build walls, but now I allow the Holy Spirit to filter them as I navigate my Christian journey.

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful post. God bless.

    1. I love the ocean pic as well, Deb. The ocean to me, and MANY is religion unto itself. The women in the Sloan family are water ladies. I like the fact that you use the ocean as a tool in building walls. The walls can melt away with beauty and grace just as a wave hits the rocks. When i redirect my attention to nature, i can recenter. I won’t be led astray by others’ opinions. Nature speaks to me: Maybe that’s God. oxoxox m

      1. melis – I took that picture in Port Orford, Oregon. We used to drive down to the Dolly Harbor there and watch the crab boats come in. It was the most amazing place. If I hadn’t already been convinced of the awesomeness of God, the ocean surely would have done it!

    2. Noel – Welcome to TMG! You’re so right and wise – it’s the Holy Spirit, not our experience that dictates the blueprint for sea walls! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
      ~ Debbie

  7. Gracious one, you have me thinking about sea walls and brackish water, boundaries and devastation. As one who’s lived without good adequate sea walls, I know the crash of those waves coming in. Praying now for the one(s) who’ve been over run and crushed, that He come in with healing living water, to wash and soothe and restore them again. And praying for you, our gentle one who speaks in love and grace. Love you – the other deb

    1. I love my Debs!!! How beautiful your words are. It is stormy in the world. To some it may seem bi-polar. But you know the Truth. It is the constant flushing of beauty over brackish … And these waters seem to pop up at will –the trick is having the right swim suit:-). Love melis

      1. melis – you are being surrounded by Deb’s aren’t you? 😀
        Funny, I just now read this comment after already responding to your earlier one. Manic/Depressive, Bi-Polar or just a bit of harshness – it makes for rough waters.
        Swim suits it is!
        ~ Debbie

    2. Dearest Deb – Why am I not surprised that you would be unprotected from the rogue waves and undertow. How kind hearted of you to pray for those who have washed back up on shore and are still gasping for air.
      ~ Debbie

    1. Dear gaye – I left CV largely because of that very attitude, only to find it all over here in blogland. I haven’t been hit yet, but I’m sure my day is coming. If you’ve ever watched Glee – it’s a lot like getting a slushy in your face.
      ~ Debbie

  8. Great words! We must be extremely careful when we presume to speak for God. The truth is…if someone comes to me and begins with “I’ve got a word from the Lord for you,” odds are I won’t hear another word they say.

    1. I’m laughing–but only because I’m “amen-ing” with Debbie!! Arrogance is not a pretty thing–whether in “believers” or “non”! God bless you–(I’m pretty sure that’s okay to say!)

  9. What a beautiful and PERFECT sentiment you shared from Kay Redfield Jamison. I may be in love with another of your wise women, persons! I love the word brackishness …

    Man, it couldn’t be me God-ing could it? I’m the one who doesn’t think he likes me. I feel terrible about someone feeling Godded. It’s not a good feeling if you’re not sure, and you don’t want to be forced to be “sure”. Keep us updated. How kind of you to speak up on behalf of your friends. Thank you … you are an Earth Angel x a bunch xoxo melis

    1. melis – No dear heart, I don’t think you have God-ing in you. You’re far too tender for that. 😀
      You would LOVE (I think) An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. It’s one of my all time favorites.
      Kay is (or at least was) the leading expect in the country on Manic/Depression. She literally wrote the textbooks on it. In An Unquiet Mind, she shares her own struggle with manic/ depression (she rejects the term Bi-Polar). She’s candid and brilliant. It’s a fascinating psychological study from inside her tormented mind. It’s akin to reading Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures if you want a better grasp of autism.
      ~ Debbie

      1. Debbie, are you just recommending books, or have i been diagnosed as autistic and bi-polar?? God help me!!! Far as i know, i’m simply eating disordered and depressed. What’s the difference really? RIght. UNQUIET MIND. I like that. It’s not derogatory as far as i’m concerned. The more action the better!

      2. Ok, i’m replying to my own response here. Rest your mind melissa. Ease the hell up?

        OH, and HI Debbie.

        I’ve heard of an Unquiet Mind. Thanks for the recommendation. I would love to have a better understanding of manic/depression and autism. These are quite complex topics to attend to. xoox m

      3. melis – 😀
        No Sweetie, I wasn’t diagnosing you with new disorders!
        You mentioned thinking you might like Kay Jamison Redfield and I was simply agreeing and trying to share with you a bit of why I loved her book. Remember, I was a psych major, so the topics that she and Temple Grandin address so eloquently are of great interest to me. I simply thought you might find their books to be fine reading. I didn’t mean to imply, in any way, that you fall anywhere on either scale.
        love and peace to you, mel
        ~ Debbie

  10. This is excellent, sis Debbie–you’re a master (or is it more pc to say “mistress”, even though that has its own eyebrow-raising connotation) at saying things with concise precision, and in a loving way. Thank you so much–hope all the right people read and hear; and praying in advance that I don’t discover myself among the offenders.

    I have another small, brief question related to the ABC Award: I’ve seen 2 different award images, the one on your blog, and then another that says “Awesome Blog Content”. Are they two separate and distinct awards? Or, one and the same, just two images?

    If they are the same award, may I include both images when I catch up with my acceptance speech and banquet??

    Wonderful to see you here–your Caddo sis, barefoot and dancing!

    1. Okay, sorry to drive you nuts, sis–I found my way over to Kate’s blog, where the answer was crystal clear! You can now go on about your day…..(sheepish Caddo)

    2. Dear Dancing Sheep – Let’s just say I’m an apprentice. 😉
      May we ALL be ever mindful of the wounding and the healing power of the tongue! Your words are so very often a balm to my soul.
      ~ Debbie

  11. Very well said. I understand and as an INTP more often than not walk away not wishing to analyze any further.

    On the other side of the coin, my wall is very high and sometimes I would suggest I am the “puffer” fish.

    1. Linda – Well, my friend, maybe we both just need a good salt water bath! 😉
      There’s a great deal of craftsmanship in learning to build sea walls that are just the right height, don’t you think? I’ve often fluctuated from none at all to veritable fortresses.
      You are one fine, honest lady!
      ~ Debbie

    1. Kate – We’re kindred spirits here. There’s so much hurt and harm that touch people’s lives, sadly often at the hands (or at the tongue) of fellow Christians. It seems like being gentle and kind and careful in what we write should be our reaction to a wounded world. As you so brilliantly share:’be a light’! I need to start passing your award around! I love it!
      ~ Debbie

    1. Hello Greg! Thank you so much for the ping! That’s such an honor. Although the timing of my unemployment doesn’t seem ideal to me since I already have to take two weeks off this month for RV repairs (I hit a palm tree – just a little 4 footer) 😉
      I’m confident in the God who promises to work all things for the good for those who love Him! 😀
      ~ Debbie

  12. hmmmm, sorry your reintroduction to the internet wasn’t all good. But thank you for your kind words on something that can be hard to hear. You have me examining my heart and words on this one. Something I surely need to do.

    1. Debby, my dear friend – You have always shared your heart with me and with others on line in the warmest, most gentle way. Never have I heard you to presume you spoke for God. That’s just one of the many things I so like about you!
      ~ Debbie

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