Home / Spirituality / awake

IMG_1961One of my favorite vacation destinations is the beach. I love essentially everything about it: The ocean, with it’s waves rhythmic and crashing; the sounds of the sea soothingly breathing in and out. I love getting in the water, surrendering to the tide’s calm rocking, feeling cleansed and rejuvenated. My favorite thing to do is to get out where the water is about chest high, plant my feet in the ocean floor, and go weak in the knees so that the waves bob me up and down like a cork. I like walking barefoot in the sand and feeling that texture on the soles of my feet. I can usually bury my cares in that sand–at least for a few days–while I am soaking up the sunshine. Speaking of the sun, I even like to be out in it, as long as I respect the power of it and coat myself with an impenetrable sunscreen and hide underneath an umbrella, cap, and sunglasses.  I also love the salty air. It just seems that I can breathe more deeply when I am walking in the surf and feeling its spray. It’s healing for me.
How can a person stand at the edge of where the ocean intersects with the land, feeling that salty spray, feeling the sun’s warmth, scanning an endless horizon of water and contemplating the marine life living in it and NOT feel at least a momentary sense of awe? It happens to me every time I go.
I believe God speaks to us in a variety of ways, and I think that experience is one of them for me.  Sometimes I will stare out over the vastness of the ocean, feeling so fragile in comparison to the magnitude of the sea, and yet so taken care of by a God who orchestrates all of this in such a way that it sustains life instead of crushing it.
Sometimes I wonder if others feel this way as well. Do they see it? Do they feel it? Or is it just another day at the beach? To borrow a line from a U2 song, is it possible to “stand next to the truth and not see it?” I’m sorry to say that I think it happens everyday, and I am certainly not immune. Because of my own preoccupations, I lose sight and forget to notice the wonders that are right before my eyes. But somehow the beach helps me hit the reset button and re-calibrate my sights.
I had three experiences on one of my most memorable trips that made me ponder this idea of missing the majesty of God that’s right before our eyes. The first occurred just moments after I arrived at my condo on the very first day. On one side of the building was the ocean, and on the other side was a swimming pool. Astonishingly, I found that there were several people gathered around the swimming pool; getting in it, and even laying out beside it. Now, I understand the following statement might be a bit hyperbolic, but it stresses a point: Why would someone have their choice between the ocean and a swimming pool and actually choose the pool? It’s like going into the greatest seafood restaurant on the coast and ordering the chicken nuggets! It makes me wonder how often we have the majesty of God right before our eyes and we choose a lesser imitation. A mere distraction from the true glory that is written all over the landscape.  How sad. Well, I wasn’t going to miss it, so I headed straight for the beach.
On the second day of my trip I encountered another perplexing experience. It was about mid afternoon, and I was heading back out to the beach for the second time that day. When I got there, strangely there was no one around. And I mean NO ONE… It looked practically deserted out there. Very confused but delighted, I made my way to the shoreline and saw why the other beach-goers might have headed to the pool- The waves were full of seaweed, dark and nasty-looking.  Really quite intimidating, to tell you the truth.  Even a wave-lover such as myself was hesitant to get in the water with all that trash- Who knows whether it would sting or stick to my skin. Who knows what sea creature might be hiding amongst it? As a result, I decided to take a walk along the shoreline instead.  To my delight, I found that only one condominium’s distance down the seaweed completely cleared.  The waves were crisp and beautiful on the other side!  After walking far enough to be convinced the seaweed was truly gone, I waded out into the water and thoroughly enjoyed being alone with the ocean.  This experience made me wonder how many dark, painful, or intimidating experiences we encounter that make us turn around and give up. I wondered how many people might have stayed if they had only known that there was clear, clean, beautiful water on the other side. I felt sad that so many had given up and headed back to the pool, missing out on the beauty that was just a few steps down the line.  If they had only kept walking through the darkness… If they had only known it would eventually clear.
The last peculiar experience occurred on the final day of my trip.  I am not a morning person, but decided that I wanted to know what the sunrise would look like there.  After hitting snooze and almost missing it, I hurried out to my spot to set up my chair before the sun arrived.  Thankfully, I got there in time. The grainy light was already present when I left the condo, but the sun had not yet risen above the horizon.  Strangely, again, there was no one there.  It was just me and the sand crabs waiting for the sun’s grand entrance that morning.  And then, suddenly, it arrived with a burst of orange and red and gold, and I was glad I was not asleep like all the other beach-goers. They were surely missing one of the most beautiful sights of the day.  I, again, thought of the enormity of the universe and how God was sustaining my life at that very moment by keeping the Earth spinning just close enough to be warmed and lighted, but just far enough away not to be scorched and consumed–AND THE OTHERS WERE MISSING THIS EXPERIENCE!  They were simply asleep; unconscious and senselessly unaware of this breathtaking event that had just happened right out the window.  At that point I started wondering how often we just sleepwalk through our lives.  How many times do we encounter the amazingness of God, and not see it because we are asleep?  Not physically asleep, but spiritually and emotionally unconscious of what surrounds us. Counting down the days and hours and minutes of our lives in a coma-like stupor; asleep while true life quietly and majestically passes us by.
My hope for you and me is this: That we would not miss out on the goodness and the wonder of life. That we would not be blind to God’s sunrise or deaf to the sound of his surf. That we would never choose a measly pool when the ocean is being offered.  That when we encounter seaweed and other dark, painful, or intimidating stretches of our journey, we will keep walking.  And, perhaps most importantly, that we will remain conscious and awake to God’s constant provision and care for us, and how often he displays it right before our eyes; if we are only able to keep them open.
– From Matt Thames