Shade is what I look for in a walk. So walking the beach for any distance is fun, but it requires a lot of work and exposure to the sun. So I like parks with lots of trees or neighborhoods with lots of tree cover. Finding 5 miles of that though, can be elusive. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!
The other day the sun was setting and I decided to walk to the ocean. Now, Palmetto Park Road qualifies neither as a park (although there is one you walk by) nor a neighborhood street lined with trees. It’s busy and noisy, and not the most scenic although pretty churches line the section I walk.
But it’s the way to get to the ocean. I like the beach, but it’s the ocean that I love. There’s something about the ocean that makes you walk several miles to just stand on the South Beach Pavilion and stare at… well, not much really. There might be a boat or two out there, the clouds might have interesting forms, but pretty much, for as far as the eye can see, all you see is water. Just water. Only water. And yet, you can stare at it for hours. Why? Maybe it’s because 70% or something of our composition is water. Maybe we know that without water these is no life, so we find security in it. Maybe we dream of travel, of mastering the water with whatever navigable vessel we have.
Personally, I watch waves. I look for the surfable wave. I don’t have to be surfing (I love body surfing – more on that in a second) to watch for the good waves; there’s some little delight in predicting which one will break in the right way to make for a long ride. Watching actual surfers figure that out too is fun.
As a teenager I participated in a youth group that went on campouts to the most surfable beaches in Costa Rica. As a teenager I decided that what I liked about body surfing the most was feeling the power of the ocean propelling me faster and farther than I could do on my own. The power of rushing water, at times powerful enough to rip my shorts off and sometimes powerful enough to pound me into the sand, reminded me that there was a power in very close proximity to me that was immense. That power could kill me. That power could ruin my day. And it could make me smile like there was no tomorrow.
You know where I’m headed here. As humans we tend to fill our heads with the notion that we are the greatest power out there. Or that there is no power that we cannot tame. No. As anybody who has gone through a powerful hurricane will tell you, no, you can’t tame all the powers to be. Anyone who has seen a volcano explode or mud slide will attest to the notion that there are many powers that are greater than our own.
God is the greatest of those. God is a force that cannot be contained. God’s power is not something that we can predict or control. For a reason, Proverbs says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” God’s power is not like a little pond which is pretty to look at. The Lord’s power is like the ocean, slow like the tide sometimes, swift as a hurricane at others, delightful like a wave breaking the whole length of the beach, beautiful like a coral reef.
Like the ocean, you can ride the tidal changes, you can surf the waves of God’s power. You can be buoyed by it, and be overcome by it. Fearing the ocean is the beginning of a good day at the beach, right? You don’t go in if it’s angry. Fear is recognizing your limits, not being paralyzed by them.
You can stare at the ocean for hours. Why? Because it speaks to a power that is not our own. A power that is beautiful and life giving, but not taken for granted because it is so much bigger than we are. I hope today in church will be that kind of
experience for you.
Ready to get out on the water,
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20