For the past week or so I’ve been on vacation. And for this time out from the regular routine I have been able to enjoy my ultimate happy place – the beach. I grew up in the Northeast of the United States and have been vacationing at beaches as long as I can remember – mostly in Cape Cod and New Jersey. But any beach is fine with me.
WHY is the beach my happy place? Let me count the ways…
When I am sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean, I’m overcome by the majesty of God. We periodically read the creation accounts in worship, and that all fine and good, but a trip to the beach for me is like a field trip. For example, “We’ve read about the Statue of Liberty in school, but now let’s go see it IN PERSON!” Sure, God’s creation is all around us in our everyday lives, but the beach drives it home for me. Right before my eyes is the awesomeness of creation for as far as my eyes can see. Watching the sun rise over the ocean’s horizon is about as glorious as anything else I’ve ever experienced (besides giving birth to my three children). And the ocean is so, well, VAST.
So, when I am sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean, I’m overcome by how SMALL I am. I’m struck by the enormity of the body of water before me. I’m struck by the enormity of the horizon. I’m struck at times by the power of the waves. I’m struck by the ocean’s depth, and the whole other universe that exists under its surface. What am I compared to all that? Nothing that’s what. I’m tiny, inconsequential, completely unimportant. My life matters not much in the grand scheme of nature.
But, when I am sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean, I’m overcome by God’s love for ME. Because, while I really don’t matter in the grand scheme of nature, at the same time my well-being is of the UTMOST importance to God. How utterly amazing is that? Amid all this beauty, all this majesty, all this vastness, all this power, God chose to die for ME. God loves creation – God said it was good. But God loves you and me, these tiny specks of sinful nothingness, so much that God was willing to DIE to save us. This is the truth that Christians live with every day, that Jesus was willing to sacrifice HIMself to save us from OURselves.
When I am sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean, I’m overcome by Law and Gospel. The beach tells me I’m nothing and deserve nothing, but the beach also tells me that I’m everything and have received the very best. It convicts me, shows me my earthly place, but it also reminds me of the greatness of my salvation, the enormity and the lengths to which Jesus will go in order to keep me in his arms of love.
Sure, there are plenty of superficial reasons why the beach is my happy place. My husband loves the beach. My children love the beach. A trip to the beach is one vacation destination on which we can all agree. That alone would be reason enough! I also have wonderful memories of the beach through the years – as a child vacationing with cousins, dating my husband and getting to know his family, watching my children when they put their toes in the warm sand for the first time, first sand castles, helping them “jump” the waves, smiles and laughter. Now that the children are getting older I can even close my eyes for a few seconds at a time to “take in” the sound and the rhythm of the waves. Mind you, they’re still too young for me to take a nap or read a book, but those days will come back again one day. Now that I think about it I could probably read a book, but for me book-reading leads to nap-taking, so better to leave the book back at the beach house…
In the end, the beach for me is a place for spiritual wonder and earthly joy. It’s a place to realize and experience God’s creative greatness, my “not-so-greatness”, but yet God’s great love for me. There’s no other place like it – not for me anyway.