BECKONING FROM THE BEACH
Beach season has arrived. We have patiently waited through the winter and through the virus lockdown. Hoards of people will be invading coastlines all around the world as they leave the confines of their homes to feel the squish of wet sand between their toes and rays of warm sunshine on their backs. College students, families, singles, couples, teens, you name it will be hitting the beach before summer’s end.
Why do we love the beach so much? Is it a place to cast aside our cares for just a little while? Is it the appeal for a youthful bronze glow? Maybe it’s the only place the entire family could agree upon. Or maybe it’s the mouth-watering taste of fresh seafood. Could the enjoyment of floating effortlessly in the saltwater be appealing or riding the waves like my Daddy used to love to do? Maybe it’s building sandcastles. No doubt, there are lots of reasons.
I can relate to some of those reasons but not all. I live in Alabama only a few hours away from beautiful white-sand beaches but I’ll be honest, I hate saltwater. I can’t stand for it to get in my mouth or on my skin. I hate sand even worse. I confess there may be some deep-seated unresolved issues regarding sand. As a child, we visited my grandmother in Florida where my Daddy grew up. We always took one day to go to the beach. It was fun but the fun was soon forgotten during the hour-long sticky ride home sitting on sand that had settled in my bathing suit bottoms. To this day, I hate sand! Even when I lay towels on the beach, I carefully position them and myself so that the sand only touches my feet. I hate suntan lotion, too. The thought of sand blowing on my skin after being thinly creamed with lotion totally grosses me out! And forget suntan oil. That stuff will never touch my skin as long as I live. Truth be known, I’m not too crazy about the blazing hot sun either. I get fever blisters from too much sun. It never fails. They are painful, embarrassing, and ugly. Nothing stops them from popping out a day or two later once the sun has left its mark on my skin. Speaking of skin, I burn. I don’t tan. Therefore, I peel. And we all know how lovely that looks!
But guess what . . . I still join the tried and true to say I love the beach! No surprise I prefer mountains, but the beach has its place. You must be scratching your head as to why I would say such a thing after listing all my beach woes. Well, I love the sensations of the beach – the sounds, the smells, the feel, the taste of crustaceans. I love the sound of the waves as they crash, the seagulls gawking in the sky, the speedboats whizzing by, and the cruisers chugging in the distance. I love the sound of approaching thunderstorms on the horizon and the mesmerizing lightning in the distance. And the smells – I like the smell of salty air faintly tainted with fish, of chlorine-laden pools where children play, and coconut suntan lotion (for a limited time). And I love the feel of the mild breeze coming off the water and the smooth touch of water-tossed seashells from the ocean bottom.
I may love the beach but not like your average beach lover. I am perfectly content to never put my big toe in the foamy water or lay my fair white skin on a beach towel in the hard-packed sand. What I enjoy most is having the perfect location of my condo with my bedroom at the perfect height overlooking the gulf front. I will pay good money to be able to crack my sliding glass door the slightest bit to hear the sound of waves all night long. The drone of the ocean soothes me and brings out the creative side in me. I wrote some of the most challenging lessons in my Confronting Cancer with Faith book at the beach. One of my favorite things is to be propped up in bed late at night with my laptop on my knees while at the beach. The flow of words and thoughts seem to come easier and more clearly.
More than the intangible things at the beach, I crave the spiritual thing. The beach is a place I love to reconnect with God. There is a nearness of the ocean that woos me from its expanse. I recall a time many years ago while at the beach that God spoke to my spirit. It was evening and I was standing on the balcony gazing out over the miles and miles of white sand in both directions. A favorite verse came to mind from Psalm 139: “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand” (Ps 139:17-18). I have to wonder. Why would God have me on His mind so often? And why does He sing songs about me? Nonetheless, I believe He does. It’s just another part of His love story. As I see this sight before me and know that I’ve actually tried to count how many grains of sand there are in just a small pinch, I realize the ineptness of my confined understandings of God. I sense a tremendous feeling of inferiority and smallness but at the same time a sense of intimate closeness, humility, and gratitude.
As I stood there lost in meditative thought, my mind turned towards the vastness of the ocean. I listened and watched the waves come in one by one, further and further onto the shore. High tide was approaching. Out of the serenity from the ocean’s hypnotic lull, I imagined the soft whisper of God. He entered my thoughts to tell me how He commands each wave into being and how He announces each one’s appointed arrival. He has ordained their travel distance, too. I stood there in complete stillness and absolute awe considering this announcement over and over and over again listening to each wave’s arrival. Waves had been arriving since the dawn of creation! Forever. Long before my existence. And they would continue to beat up on shorelines all around the world until the end of time. How was that possible? How could God orchestrate each wave, tiny and large, to hit the shore at just the right time? All over the world on every shore? From every ocean? Doesn’t He have more important things to do? I considered how it wasn’t just the wave I saw as it came to its final destination but that it had been churned from the great depths and traveled great lengths. Something my eyes had not seen. From a wave’s existence, throughout its journey, until its approach and final arrival, the wave was known to God, created by God. If He could do that, then who was I to question His revelation to speak whispers of truth in my ear? I listened. I cried. I felt remarkable humility having been privy to a glimpse into the mysteries of the deep and the unfoldings of the Almighty.
Sometime later I came across a passage in Job 38. My eyes widened and I stopped breathing as I read Job 38:11. “And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop?” I smiled as I fondly remembered my encounter on the balcony in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I began to breathe again.