School’s out, and it’s time to think about a trip to the beach.
I’ve always loved the ocean and have been making trips to one particular section of the north Oregon coast for as long as I can remember. My parents took us there as children, and I have continued the tradition with my own kids.
We go to celebrate the end of school, or to recover from any major or minor stress. The kids have gone alone, when old enough, to spend time with friends. I’ve spent long weekends with my writers’ group to write and soak up inspiration and encouragement. We’ve gone with various church groups: singles, women’s, youth. We meet my extended family there for reunions.
As I was walking along the sandy beach on one weekend getaway, I wondered what it is about the ocean that has such a restoring effect on me–and on others, to judge by the high-volume tourist trade along this particular stretch of coast. Although we go other places to unwind: high mountain lakes, the Northwest’s many rivers and streams, alpine meadows and the vast, empty stretches of high desert, there is something different about the ocean.
I can’t speak for others, but I think it reminds me of God.
All places in nature show the Lord’s handiwork, but the ocean itself uniquely reflects the character of the Creator of the Universe. We have powerful breakers along the north Oregon coast. The waves roll in unhindered across thousands of miles of open ocean. Watching them, sensing their power, my worries drop away. I’m in the presence of something so powerful I cannot contain or control it, and that is freeing at those times when I carry the world on my shoulders. Someone else, after all, is actually in charge.
When I was teaching at a small learning center we did a unit on the ocean. Teaching something is a great way to learn, and I was as enthralled as the students. We had a colorful poster showing the various levels of the ocean floor. The level we experience at the beach is the coastal shallows. This is followed by the continental shelf, which drops off into the abyssal plain about two miles down. Deeper still, incredibly enough, are the trenches. The deepest is the Marianas Trench in the South Pacific, which is over six miles deep. Life abounds at all levels in the ocean waters and even in the deepest trenches.
Seventy-one percent of the earth is covered with water; a world that teems with plants and animals we rarely see. As I stand on the edge of the coastal shallows, up to my ankles in breaker foam, I think of God’s riches. My experience of Him is very like my experience of the ocean. My family has lived near the ocean for at least four generations. I am quite familiar and comfortable with my little stretch of Oregon beach. I will venture out into the surf a bit. When my uncle kept a fishing dory, some of us went out even further, caught fish and saw whales or the occasional shark. It’s amazing to think that, for all that, we’ve never ventured much beyond the coastal shallows. All the life and variety of the abyssal plain and the mysterious depths of the trenches is unknown to us.
The ocean, with its power and mystery, reminds me of God more than any other natural wonder on earth.
Life in Him is deeper, more varied and more mysterious than we can fathom. The Apostle Paul apparently had some hint of this when he wrote his prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (vv. 17-19).