If I didn’t already have my shoes off, I would have removed them, for I felt I was on holy ground. It was one of the last mornings of our vacation, and I was on a beach walk by myself, but I was not alone.
With my very first step, I began thanking God for the opportunity to be there with my family. Then as my mind wandered, I started talking to God about why He made the beach the way He did and how our visits there impact us. And I started snapping pictures to capture it all.
First, I noticed that the beach humbles us. Everyone struts off of the level sidewalks of the world and onto the soft sands of His creation, and suddenly, we’re not so cool. Our muscles get a work-out, especially if we haven’t been there in a while, relearning how to push off of our toes and use our hips more. With our first few steps, we laugh and look around self-consciously, but eventually, we get too tired to care about how we look. And we end up doing much better when we simply fix our eyes on the water and trudge ahead.
|This bird, with his effortless sand-walking, was following and mocking me. 🙂
Second, that place seems to pull people to itself. Even it’s large, shiny conch-shells echo in our ears, beckoning us from around the world. So we go. We step out of the center of the country and the center of our lives, and we go to great lengths to stand at the edge of the land. And despite the fact that we’ve spent our vacation days, and savings to get there, our blood pressure drops. Perhaps because it’s a relief to feel small for a change. How surprisingly comforting to be knocked off-balance and overcome by something bigger and stronger than us. Somehow, it quiets my soul and puts me in my correct place, and I feel better. On our first morning there, I think my son responded perfectly.
|He spent most of the first day allowing the waves to roll him around the shallow water.
He wasn’t alone in this, see my daughter’s legs? 🙂
Third, it occurred to me that while on vacation, it’s easier to see beauty in everything and everyone. All around me, people were taking pictures. Yes, some of the seascape and ocean life, but mostly of each other or taking selfies, all smiling. And when they weren’t posing, families and friends were talking, laughing, playing, reading side by side, or just sitting… together. Perhaps, when we’re out of our routine and away from our expectations, it’s easier to enjoy each other, and ourselves, a little bit more.
|I don’t know these people, but I loved watching them take pictures of each other, obviously smitten. 🙂
And fourth, I noticed that at the edge, where His power, beauty, creativity, and vastness can’t be ignored, it’s much easier to see His grace. Like Him, the waves absorb both our creative offerings and our selfish choices. Sometimes with a gentle, graceful motion, but other times with crashing, erratic surges. But each wave promises to take what we’ve done, both good and bad, and leave us with an improved creation, and a clean, new path to walk. A churning, rhythmic reminder of His redemptive work.
|For the record, this is not my can. I picked it up and threw it away after taking this pic. 🙂
And finally, after walking for nearly an hour, it occurred to me that work doesn’t feel like work here. My sand-walking, the lugging of the beach gear, the lathering of sunscreen, the pumping up rafts, the packing and unpacking endless snacks, lunches, drinks, the coordination of activities…. none of it felt like a struggle. So maybe, when our chores and rest are balanced, it’s easier to smile and be sweet, even while sweating.
And after time there, my mind is clear and I’m able to assign words to how I feel:
- Humble, but motivated.
- Small, but unafraid.
- Others-focused, and beautiful.
- Realistic, but hopeful.
- At work, but at peace.
My walk had become worship, and by the end, the waves began announcing a shift and rushed over my feet and ankles. But I barely noticed… for His Spirit was whispering announcements over my shifting soul: This is exactly what I’ve been offering you. I died so you could live this way…
And I never wanted it to end.
But we run out of time and money and there are rules and hoses that tell us to wash off and move on. So we huddle in groups to take more pictures, linger for one last night on the beach, and rub our feet and hands in the sand, willing our senses to remember the feeling. We stuff our suitcases with shells and fill keepsake bottles with take-home portions of our spot on the beach.
However, after a while, the grains will irritate, the tan will fade, and we’ll find ourselves back in the land’s center. The shells will start to feel like clutter and we’ll ask ourselves what was such a big deal about a bottle of sand. The world’s noise will drown out the graceful waves and we’ll forget…
So I’m sad, but mostly worried, about leaving, and I resolve to never lose what I gained here. But while I’m careful to journal and take many pictures, and as I flex my vowing muscles, He reminds me of how silly it is to try to capture what was already mine. And how illogical it is to vow to remember what never has to leave.
For He makes these vacation highlights available to us always and everywhere…even in our land-locked states.
Every day, if we choose to embrace the “soft sand-walking” moments of life: engaging muscles that need attention, blocking out what’s periphery, releasing our pride, and calling for His strength for each shaky, labored step… work can transform to worship. We can trust in Him to work in us while working us out.
When we submit to a bigger Narrative, and find our place in it, peace washes over and we’re willing to lay ourselves down, like my son. Like His Son.
And when our head isn’t spinning from being in the center, our vision is more clear. Like with the “ocean filter”, the ordinary becomes beautiful and we are more content with what’s here and now.
|No ocean view or beach access, but it’s home. 🙂
Now, don’t get me wrong… the beach is a wonderful place. I love a good bronzing and some tasty seafood as much as the next girl. And boy, do I love that “feet in the sand” feeling! But the real souvenirs that I wanted to bottle … are found in Him. No matter what the season, or how little I have to spend, I can meet with my Creator, not just His creation.
And better than the beach, I have more than the edge. With Him, I am surrounded by a deep ocean of Grace. Even hundreds of miles away from the ocean… and even when enduring the pasty-white, crock-pot, wool-sock season of a mid-western winter.
And… even when I find that I’ve wandered back into the center, into His rightful spot… and I’m ashamed.
Because with every wave of Grace, He’s calling me from within the shell of my soul and drawing me to Himself… echoing promises to make perfect my efforts and redeem my failings. And I can rest.
And it’s a trip that has no ending…an eternal, glorious family vacation.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” Hebrews 4:9
How about you? Are you due for a vacation?