By CHAD MARS
How the ocean showed me Jesus
My awakening to Christianity began in the fall of 2017. I was experiencing some of life’s great challenges. I was searching for answers and I needed a strength that was beyond me to help me find the path back into the light. I had been a strong nonbeliever for decades, and my family was talking to me about faith, and for the first time in my life, I had an open heart to it.
I felt the message of God’s love and forgiveness — and his guide for how to live —would provide the structure I needed for dealing with all areas of life. During this time, I had been fixated on a song called “The Rip Tide” by Beirut. The lyrics are about finding love and grappling with loss in the ocean. I felt called to the beach to reflect and read about Christ for a couple of weeks.
The morning I arrived at the beach, there was a strong riptide. I stood in the ocean and talked to God for hours and asked for forgiveness as the waves pulled on me, and I imagined them carrying my old life away. I felt an immediate sense of joy and healing that day. The power of waves is that they clear the mind of unhealthy thoughts and reset your body to a blissful happy state. I felt the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s love in the water. My language of love is physical touch, and I felt like God was using the power of nature to break down the walls I had built up against Him.
The lyrics to “The Rip Tide” song had foreshadowed exactly what I was experiencing. I started listening to Tim Keller sermons that week at the beach, and knew for certain Christ’s message was the Truth I had been looking for.
After returning from the beach, I experienced an immediate shift in my relationships with close ones as I opened up about what I had been experiencing with life and faith. I joined men’s groups and saw that everyone was dealing with the same struggles I was and that through conversations centered on the Bible we could find comfort in our community and experience healing. The message that Christ was the great physician was being made real to me through everyday experiences that added up to a transformation in my wellbeing.
I set out to make a series of paintings to reflect this time in my life but had no clear vision for how they would look. Through some unplanned
accidents in the studio, I stumbled upon a concept that expressed exactly what I had experienced in the water at the beach. For me, they were images of water prisms, with God’s white light in the power of splashing water to unleash the work of the Holy Spirit to flow through us.
The Spirit is symbolized in prismatic rainbow-like clouds. Christianity is ultimately about surrendering. Surrendering control. Water has a magical way of putting us in a state of surrender like nothing else. Swimming in lakes, the sea, a river. We become a better version of ourselves in water. I believe God’s power is very present in water.
After my awakening and finishing a series of paintings, I spent the rest of the year immersing myself in the Bible and attending church.
I became a member of Fondren Church and received baptism there.
The challenge I face now is to continue to lean on my faith and keep myself in check because I know the devil wants me to forget everything I experienced and return to an old way of thinking. The devil tries to convince us that it was all in our head, and none of God’s work was real.
Thankfully my awakening experience was so supernatural, and beautiful, that I can always return to the strong memory of it and remind myself I can never go back to who I was before those events. I can turn my mind to water and meditate on God’s power in it and feel good knowing He is always present here on earth.
Chad Mars was born and raised in Mississippi and earned his degree in painting from the University of Mississippi. He is a full-time abstract painter, and his studio is located in Ridgeland.