The Sunset Cliffs National Park is just one of the many stunning displays of God’s natural beauty along the coastline of San Diego, CA, that my family discovered during a recent vacation. My boys were determined to scale the cliff to the very bottom so they could jump “American Ninja Warrior” style from one rock to the next until they met the ocean waves. Luckily there were some steps built into the side and so down we went.
From the beginning of our 200-foot descent down the side of the cliff, the landscape, color, and topography changed dramatically. Our trek began with grass and dry dirt at the very top, but as we descended, differing soil makeups led to color changes, ultimately growing darker the closer we came to the ocean. The sediment and rock formed twisting crags and sharp crevices down the side of the cliff. The crevices gave way to massive arches, caves, and caverns that led to the ocean itself, the tide sloshing in and out between masses of rocks, stones, and sand.
It was breathtaking.
I moved my hands across the cavern wall. It was smooth, damp, and cold to the touch. I wondered how many years the ocean had been working on this very spot. It had most certainly not begun as this smooth, easily maneuvered path for myself and my boys to climb along to feel the ocean on our toes. Time and the ocean created this marvel.
I wondered, could this be the same way that grace works in our hearts?
As the surge of the ocean changes the shape of a coastline, so too the surge of supernatural grace erodes the hardened layers of stone, rock, and sediment that sin builds around our hearts. Grace has the power to transform and change us as deeply and dramatically as the ocean waves alter the face of a cliff.
We have all been damaged by the effects of sin. Sin distances us from God; it “sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it.” Sin creates a wall around our heart. The more we sin, the easier it becomes to continue down that path. The graver the sin, the deeper and wider the cavity grows between us and God. But the walls of sin are no match for the limitless surge of grace that God offers to us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as a free gift given to us by God to sanctify and strengthen us and to cleanse us from our sin. Given to us first in baptism, grace invites us into a fuller life with God. It is a power, one that surpasses our own intellect and will. It is supernatural. It transforms us.
How can we open our hearts to this kind of deep transformation that the Lord promises to us? How can we allow ourselves to be washed over with His grace—to surrender to its powerful surges, yield to its smoothening out of our rough edges, and attend to the ways it softens our hearts to the will of God?
Let’s remember His own words to us:
“It depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God.” (Romans 9:16)
This free gift of grace to us cannot be earned; it does not depend on what I do or produce. God wants to give this to us. He wants us to have it, to have all that we need to remain close to Him. It’s not a one time deal. He freely showers us with His grace and mercy so that we are never without it, so that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39).
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)
God will never leave us alone in our sin. We cannot underestimate the powerful nature of sin. The walls of sin around our hearts can be strong, fortified by the lies and pursuits of the enemy, but the good work that the Lord began with us, as His beloved daughters, baptized by His grace, will be completed. What God started in you, He will finish. Seek His forgiveness and mercy. Confess the sin that burdens you and allow Him to lavish this sacramental grace upon you to strengthen you.
“I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
Forgive yourself. God not only desires for you to receive His full forgiveness for your sins, but for you to forgive yourself, to let your past go, and to move forward in full communion with Him.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Be bold in your prayer. Ask for surges of grace to wash over you, to have the eyes to see the ways that the Lord is showering you with His mercy, and for discernment in decision making and prudence in your actions.
As I ascended the steps back up the cliff, the lyrics to a popular worship song, “Grace Comes Like A Wave,” echoed in my heart: “There’s healing in the water, with a love that flows so deep. Wash over me. Wash over me. There’s forgiveness in the water, with a love that flows so deep. Wash over me. Wash over me.”
The cliffs in San Diego don’t have a say in the erosion caused by the ocean. We, however, do have a say in receiving His grace and allowing it to wash over us. We do have a say in surrendering our hearts and allowing His grace to erode the seemingly impenetrable wall that sin uses to separate us from the love of God. Nothing is impossible with God.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), 1850.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), 1987, 1989.
 Elevation Worship, “Grace Comes Like A Wave,” Here As In Heaven, 2016.