Don’t Waste Your Beach Vacation
With his permission, I am posting a section of his book titled “Meeting God at the Edge of Infinity and Why I Like Walking Ocean Beaches.” Since summer is here and vacation season is upon us, I thought it would be a good reminder for us to see through the beauty of nature to our beautiful Creator.
Meeting God at the Edge of Infinity
The beach is a great place to meet with God.
I didn’t know this for a long time. I didn’t see an ocean until I was nineteen. Over the years, I have sought opportunities to get away and to walk the beach. I am writing this from Southwest Florida, where the beaches afford a special opportunity: the ocean sunset.
These are special times for me. The drama of a sunset says so much to my soul. First of all, as the sun begins its descent the beach bums and sunbathers have long gone. It’s only the serious theologians who are on the beach at sunset. I refer to us as “theologians” because, whether we realize it or not, we are all going to enjoy a theological experience.
Of course, the remnants of the day of play are all around: a sandcastle here, a forgotten sandal there, notes written in the sand to lovers and politicians. All of them are destined for the oceanic eraser known as high tide. If any of us stopped and thought for a moment, we would realize that there is theology here as well. All of life’s pursuits, whether great or small, are like these sand monuments: destined to crumble and be forgotten. However, I don’t go to beaches for the sand.
I go to beaches for the ocean. Specifically, for the opportunity to stare into infinity. (Before you seek to correct me, I realize that oceans aren’t infinite, but they look like it from the beach.) Life provides few opportunities to do this. Maybe your life is like mine – a swirl of priorities that are always pressing, always begging for my attention. I am constantly staring at finite things: finite problems, finite food, finite laundry, finite people – including myself in the mirror. My life and my thoughts are so frustratingly finite.
Another way to say it is that my thoughts are too small. My world is too small. Can I dare say it? – My view of God is too small. When the infinite is small, the finite gets big. And that is the problem: I hate living with finitude. My problems seem overwhelming and unfixable. My relationships are unsatisfying. My everything is too anything but what I want it to be. I hate it.
So what do I do? I go to an ocean beach at sunset. I stare into infinity, and something happens in my heart. The overwhelming finitude within me shrinks. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with rays of light from millions of miles of away arching through the sky in shades of purple and pink. Waves sent from somewhere on a kamikaze mission to crash at my feet. A large and brilliant globe sinking into the ocean like it has decided to just give up.
Theologians gather at the shore, most of them with cameras. Infinity makes for great pictures. The walkers stop. The lovers pause. For a few moments, everybody stares at infinity. An observer would think we are watching to see what will happen. But we know what will happen – the same thing that has happened the same way for thousands of years. Yet, when it happens, we still applaud.
We need infinity. Not that we can understand it. But only with it does life make sense. That’s why I like walking ocean beaches. Because for me, the infinity of the horizon is a glimpse of what the God who made it is like. Breathtaking. Beautiful. Big. REALLY big.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
- Isaiah 40:26
- Steve Dewitt, from Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything