by Seth Bryant
Re-blogged from: Proclaim Peace
Last week Jenn and I went to Oahu, Hawaii, sans kids. It was an overdue 10-year anniversary trip and second honeymoon.
We had an amazing experience. As someone who loves to snorkel, Oahu was heaven. While Jenn sunbathed on the beach, I spent almost all my time in the water. The diversity of the fish, and their vibrant colors never ceased to amaze me.
While floating in the blue waters of a bay at North Shore, something large came into view. Snorkeling can be relaxing, exciting, and, at times, terrifying—like when a wave threatens to throw you into some rocks, or when a big unknown mass comes swimming your way. In the back of my mind, the Jaws music is always queued up for when something large materializes in the water (usually another snorkeler). As I made out the shape, my fear melted away as I realized that it was a massive sea turtle.
I expected the turtle to swim away, but it didn’t seem bothered by my presence. Instead, the turtle seemed like it was inviting me to follow. Precious seconds turned into minutes as the turtle slowly led me on a tour of the rocks and plants and fish, our bodies floating and moving together as waves rolled over us.
At one point, with the turtle floating directly below me, our bodies aligned, a large wave crashed over us. And I fought against it. The turtle seemed startled by my ungraceful movements. It looked me in the eyes, as if to say, “Don’t fight the waves.” In fact, as I processed this experience later while speaking with Jenn, I told her, “It was like the turtle was speaking to me. Like he had something to tell me.” Jenn asked, “Well, what did he tell you?” I paused, and then it was quite clear. “He told me, ‘Aloha. Be at peace.'”
Commonly used to say hello, or goodbye, Aloha means so much more: peace, mercy, compassion, love. Visiting the islands taught me that it’s a way of life, a way of being–not unlike the idea of shalom.
The turtle was both my guide and messenger in a holy place. I felt like I better understood the experience in Isaiah 6, even if just a little bit. After about 10 minutes, another snorkeler swam up, scaring away the turtle. So I swam back to Jenn, without words to adequately describe the experience or convey how it transformed me.