The following story has made a big impact on us. I think you’ll understand why as you read it. It is paraphrased here in my own words and comes from the book The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed of by John Eldredge.
There once was a sea lion who had lost the sea.
He lived in a dry and dusty land where there were only a few trees. Sometimes the wind came and blew the dust through the clumps of grass. It was a miserable land, far from any ocean and far from any sea.
No one could remember how the sea lion ever came to live in the dessert lands. It almost seemed as if he’d always been there, as if he belonged there. But he was, after all, a sea lion, and sea lion’s were made for the sea. You may wonder how such an animal could ever end up in an arid place like the dessert lands and how he could survive for so long. But remember that once you’ve lived long enough somewhere, it begins to feel like home.
At one point, many years before, the sea lion knew he was lost. He would stop travelers passing through and beg them to tell him the direction of the sea. But no one seemed to know. So day after day, month after month, the sea lion searched for the sea, never finding it. Many years past and the sea lion grew weary. He rested in the shade of a scraggly tree near a small water hole. The tree gave him relief from the unrelenting sun and the water hole soothed his burned and peeling skin. And there in that spot the sea lion settled down and tried to survive the best he could.
If you had traveled through the dessert lands in those days, you would have seen the sea lion for yourself. In the evenings he would climb up on a large flat rock that overlooked the entire area. He loved to get up off the dry, dusty soil and breath in the sweet cool breezes that past him by. Sometimes, from the east, he was sure he caught a faint whiff of salty air. And there on that rock the sea lion would rest for hours and hours. He would dream of an expanse of water as far as the eye could see — cool, refreshing and inviting. And in his dream he would plunge into the breakers and dive down into the deep blue waters below. When he awoke, he thought he could hear the sound of the roaring waves. The sea was calling him.
The sea lion loved the experiences on his rock, and he wished the sun would never rise. But each new day brought with it the heat and the dust, and each new day the sea lion found it harder and harder to leave his dreams. He would often try to fall back asleep, but as you know, dreams can’t last forever.
And then the day came when the sea lion couldn’t take the pain any longer. He stopped visiting his rock in the evenings. He feared his dreams would sweep him in again only to have the sun tear them away in the morning. He tried to convince himself that he was too busy to go to the rock, but in reality he simply couldn’t take another morning waking up so far from home. “The only way to survive here,” he told himself, “is to forget the sea.”
One day the sea lion found he wasn’t alone in the dessert lands. At first he thought the animal was only a rock, but when he saw the rough eyelids blink he knew it was alive. The tortoise had rough skin and gnarly hooks on the edge of its shell. He had definitely lived in the dessert lands a long time. Hoping the ancient creature might have some wisdom the sea lion shared his dilemma with the tortoise and asked him for advice. “But maybe this is the sea,” the tortoise mused. “How do you know for sure?” This question startled the sea lion, for he felt sure he knew what the sea was like. “I’m sure it’s much wider and deeper and grander then this place,” he declared. “This water hole is muddy and warm. I’m sure the sea is different — better.”
“You need to learn to be satisfied where you’re at,” the tortoise counseled. “It’s quite unlikely that you’ll ever find the sea you speak of.” In his heart he actually envied the young and eager sea lion who seemed so sure of a better life. “But the sea and I were made for each other,” the sea lion moaned. “How can I ever find happiness in this place?” The tortoise was silent a moment and then said wisely, “You will in time find true fulfillment here. You have been gone a long time and it’s possible the sea has completely forgotten you. Thus you must continue on without it and never look back.” And then as if to cheer the poor sea lion up the tortoise said, “Would you like to know a secret? I am not a tortoise but a sea turtle. I too know the sea and I too have learned to be content without it. Learn from me and I will teach you.”
The days came and went as the tortoise spun his tales. The sea lion listened with great interest, finding the stories very enchanting. But in time they cast their spell on him and he no longer thought about the sea. “The dessert is all there ever was, or is, or will be,” the tortoise wined on. Thus the sea lion rested in the shade of his tree when the sun grew hot and covered his eyes with his flippers when the wind blew the dust. He no longer dreamed of the sea.
It was during the month of May that year when the winds began to blow again. The sea lion had grown accustomed to the wind and he knew to turn his back and cover his eyes. Each time the wind came he would close his eyes and wait until it was gone. The wind would always pass.
But this time was different. Rushing, gusting winds blinded him for days — never ceasing, never passing. For forty days and forty nights the winds blew around him and then just as suddenly as they had come they were gone. The sea lion slowly lifted his head to look around. What he saw was nearly impossible to believe. His tree was completely scalped with not a single leaf for shade. But there was something worse — much worse indeed. His water hole, the only thing that kept him from completely drying up, had vanished. What remained was only the dry dust upon the ground.
Three weeks after the wind finally stopped blowing, the sea lion had a dream. Now as you know, the sea lion had dreamed other dreams before. But those were in the distant past and he had all but forgotten them. This dream was different than any dream the sea lion had ever dreamed before. The sea was crystal clear and the suns rays danced on its surface like a thousand diamonds. As he dove down deeper and deeper the sea was an emerald green, cool, dark, and mysterious. But the sea lion was never afraid even for an instant for in this dream he wasn’t alone. His dreams before had never included others, but this time the sea lion was in the company of other sea lions like himself. Together they dove and swirled and played. The sea lion found his heart laughing and his soul singing. He had finally found home!
Waking from that dream was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. Hot tears ran down his face and they were the first drops of moisture he’d seen in weeks. But he didn’t pause to wipe them off, nor did he pause for anything. He turned his face to the east and began to walk the best a sea lion can.
“Where are you going?” the tortoise called after him.
“I am going to find the sea.”
This book has changed our lives and if you haven’t read it, please do!