I have always wanted to see whales close up. Whenever I was in a coastal whale area, I would strain my eyes out to sea; I would look for the spray, I would gaze longingly at the horizon where I knew other people could see whales breaching. Sometimes, I thought I had seen some small grey speck and thought I had seen whales, but, being short-sighted, I knew inside of myself that I hadn’t seen anything.
Even if I had, I hadn’t fully realised the gigantic nature of that seeing. I longed to have that sense of wonder at creation, that sense of the enormity of my God, and the magnificence of His power. Knowing that whales were massive, I knew that seeing them closely would certainly bring me a greater understanding of the massive nature of their (and my) Creator.
So, on a recent trip to Ningaloo Reef, I couldn’t let the opportunity to see migrating humpback whales pass me by. As soon as I left Perth, I went online and made a booking for the whale-watching tour.
It promised to be a glorious event. There would be whales, the cruise would take place on a glass-bottomed boat, where I would have the opportunity to delight in the delectable fruits of the sea, there would even be light refreshments to enjoy over the sunset period on the turquoise, tropical waters of the North-west Peninsula of Australia. It was the promise of a personal dream come true.
Until it wasn’t. The day arrived for us to go and catch our whale-watching cruise. For the previous three days, we had shared with the whole campground that we were going to see these remarkable creatures up close and personal. Everyone knew our longings and was equally as excited for us.
We left the beach early that morning, freshened up and drove 45 minutes away, out of the National Park to the boat ramp, from where we were due to catch our cruise. We arrived 15 minutes early and were slightly disconcerted that there were few other boats around. As the time drew closer and passed, we began to think that something wasn’t quite right.
Having been out of range (in Cape Range) for the past week, we had no reception, and I had been rather blasé in checking my confirmation of the cruise. I was confident I had all the details correct as to our point of departure. Alas, as no one arrived, and we frantically raced around the Range to find some reception, my dream of viewing the whales was rapidly slipping through my fingers.
The pains, the disappointment, the anger at my carelessness was realised as I eventually managed to reach the organiser of the trip, who told me that yes, I was definitely at the wrong boat ramp, and yes, the boat had already left, and no it wasn’t able to come back to shore today. Graciously, though, the promise of another trip the next day was granted.
And so we returned to the place of waiting.
The following day arrived, we again left the beach early, and being extremely certain of our departure boat ramp, we set off in the similar direction, out of the National Park, around to the Eastern boat ramp. Upon arrival, though, this time, 30 minutes early, we had that same eery feeling of no people, no boats, no tour….
We rang the company again, to be met with, ‘Did you not receive our message? We’ve had to cancel the tour today as the prevailing winds are too strong for the boat and we are unable to take you offshore. Can you come again on Friday?’
And so again we returned to the place of waiting.
Back at camp, we had to laugh at our situation with all the other campers, who felt our disappointment, but each recognised that sometimes that’s the way life goes – you win some, you lose some. I was sure, though, that this time, the next tour would run, we would be on it, and we would see some whales.
I was reminded through the whole saga, that the promises of God are ‘Yes and Amen’, and that in faith, I will receive those promises. Even the promises that are sometimes like whales.
But, sometimes the promises don’t come straight away.
Sometimes we make mistakes, even foolish ones, even when we think we’ve checked and re-checked where the point of departure to receive the promise is. In our humanity and our weakness, we get things wrong. But God gives us second chances, unto forever.
Sometimes, things are beyond our control. Like the wind. Sometimes the wind blows, and we can’t do anything about it. It is out of our hands, and we have to accept that God is in control. He who is Sovereign, He who commands the winds, He who had promised, will bring it to pass in His time and in His way. We cannot blame ourselves for the things outside of our control, but we can trust the One who is in control.
But by faith and patience, the promises will come.
After debating whether we wanted to spend our last night driving the distance in the hope that we might be able to go out on the cruise, we decided yes, we needed to open our hearts again, chance disappointment again, trust that God always comes through.
It turns out we did see the whales on that very last cruise of the season. In the final hour, many whales breached, played, rolled, showed us their bellies, showed us their calves, showed us their majesty, and I was in awe of the Creator who made them.
It wasn’t the whales so much that brought that awe, though, it was the reminder through the lesson of waiting, that my God always comes through, that my God is faithful, but that I need to respond to Him. If I had given up, I would’ve remained in my place of disappointment. Instead, I chose to pursue Him, to pursue His promise and in that place of trust and hope, I again realised His love for me.