From the Mediterranean Sea to the South China Sea to the Irish Sea, the majority of my ancestors lived by the water. I have always identified with coastlines, and as a lifelong East Coaster, I have always felt like my nearness to water drew me near to those who have come before me.
It’s easy to feel distant. As a person of mixed-race, I don’t like to think about meeting my ancestors. It’s not that I don’t want to know who I came from, but I can’t imagine what they’d think of me. Would I look alien to them?
These thoughts are fruitless at best, harmful at worst. They imply that familiar is inherently better, and they underplay the stark beauty of change, of growth, and of new life.
The water provides a better framework. Instead of reminding me of the distance from my predecessors, the water symbolizes our proximity, our sameness. It is common to us all.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Mediterranean. From the coastline of Cassis, France, I fell in love with the dynamic blue and green of the water — in such contrast to the flat, nearly grey Atlantic next to which I grew up. And as I walked into the water, I relished in the idea that my Italian ancestors had touched the same sea. A little over a century ago, my great-grandparents would leave the port of Elena, Italy, and arrive in Boston, MA — my home.
I cannot count how many family members had to cross oceans for me to exist. My own father flew across the world for me, and almost every generation up of my family had members immigrating to the U.S. for as far back as I know. The more my mother researches, the more immigrants we find. None of them knew they were in part coming for me, but here I am: the unexpected, the future, the now.
This is God’s heart for me. I am worth centuries of crossing oceans. I am worth every surprise to my ancestors. I am worth God’s love throughout generations.
God has been in the business of crossing waters for much longer than I can trace back my lineage. I remember that, in a body of water not too far from the Mediterranean, He parted the Jordan River for the Israelites to cross into the Promised Land (Joshua 3). What seemed like insurmountable distance was nothing for God’s mighty hand. In the same way, He brought my people across waters, across earth, in a show of great faithfulness and intention. All the while, I was on His mind.
It’s easy to feel distant from the past, but God has gone the distance with me. In every single journey, past, present, and future, He has remembered me. He has looked forward to me. He has made extravagant plans for me. There hasn’t been a moment that the Lord has forgotten me, and there never will be.
This is my prayer for you. I pray that as you read this, and for every moment of your life going forward, that you would feel close to the heart of God, that you would feel like He has gone the distance with you and that He will never leave you. You are worth crossing oceans for.
It doesn’t matter what my ancestors would’ve thought of me — not in comparison to what God thinks of me and how He’s loved me generations before I was born. He has accepted me into His family. Now when I look out into the waters, I still think of my ancestors and how they crossed seas for me, but I also think about how the same God who made the seas and who crossed them with my ancestors, now anchors me.Leave a Comment