I seem to have been born for the beach.
Perhaps my eight years of childhood growing up along A1A on the east coast of Florida solidified my love for the sand, the warmth, and unpredictable waves. My love for all things ocean continued into my young adulthood as I traveled to some exotic islands around the world and lived again near sand and sea in Florida for three more years.
When I discovered the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in my early 20s for over the next decade of my life, I was stunned by their beauty. The mountains are beyond majestic, and like the ocean, they are unpredictable and sometimes dangerous. I liked that.
But oddly, over the years near the mountains, I began to feel landlocked…. trapped… and while this is not necessarily rational (please forgive me, mountain folks!), the ocean seems to have always had a standing invitation to cross it with no limits. And for many parts of the world, it has warmth.
I needed to be alone yesterday as I walked along the beach… most of the time, I am surrounded by responsibilities and the entourage of my family as I encourage sand castles and snacks and fun. I help the children enjoy the “freedom” of the beach, and I keep an eye on them with the water; I give them the impression that they can have all the fun in the world, but of course, they must only go so far into that water.
But yesterday was different.
I just needed to hear the crunch of sand (and pebbles) and hear those glorious waves as I walked alone among the other beach visitors. I needed to secretly observe each of them, and I needed to consider each of these strangers’ lives, while they continued on, mostly unaware of my existence. I needed to see my surroundings as “Shal” and without the trappings that normally keep me distracted. I needed to meditate….
And so beneath the sunset, I walked and I watched, I pondered and I prayed, I laughed to myself and at the same time I had melancholic thoughts mingled in my mind and heart. It was glorious.
There was the (very) young couple with the girl who so desperately wanted her boyfriend to embrace her in the ocean, and his awkwardness at inexperienced infatuation; there was the group of very white rich blonde teen girls listening to hip-hop they couldn’t possibly comprehend; there were two single best friends walking along the beach, one making it clear that “she wouldn’t date him unless he grew a beard;” there were the two single best friends in their 70s who walked silently and with a smile, as words were not so necessary; there was the newly pregnant mother posing in all her glory for a professional photographer, who glanced at me as if to say “don’t you dare mess up my picture;” there was a hint of sweet weed being smoked (who knows where) mingled with the smell of a distant barbecue and sand; there were the friendly guys who looked like they were about my age… they had their professional camera pointed toward the sunset and their iPod playing Soundgarden as loud as it could go for its size… I will note that they were the only ones who said “Hi! How are you this evening?” (with a sweet smile) to me out of all the people… thoughtful and kind artists… 90s… my kind of people; there was the lady in her later 40s who leaned against a log on the beach and silently stared alone into the water, head tilted in deep thought; there were families and friends giggling and taking selfies and the others who were silent or downcast, people of literally all races, religions, and ages….
It was like a microcosm of the world, right there in a tiny pocket of earth.
I chose to sit, finally, on an eroded log among some bored sea gulls. And there I began to breathe in the air. Small waves built up and crashed upon the sand, the sun edged closer to the horizon, and I asked, “Lord, what is it that You want from me?”
I looked above me and saw a Cessna fly over, and then I noted a lone soaring seagull, and for a moment I envied them. To soar above it all…. And then I noted the yachts and sail boats and people kicking back with some locally brewed beer and enjoying themselves…. and for a moment I envied their freedom and their order and control over their own lives. But then I noted a buoy tossing about in the shallow water (where thou shalt not pass, swimmers!), and I thought, that is me. I am just tossing about. Sea gulls are landing on me. I have no control over which way the water flows…
But I’m anchored.
Sure, as far as my life? I feel like this buoy: rustic, often ignored, not the reason anyone would come to the beach, tossed around and at the mercy of whatever might bump into it, watching the private planes and the yachts and jet skis speeding by, and most of all, where am I even going?! Where CAN I go?
And I realized…. I, the buoy, because I am anchored in my faith, DO have a purpose. I am that reminder of where the truth is for the foolish swimmer on one side and the foolish sailor on the other. I mark a line, that is flexible, but not really. I am nothing really but meant to be here to serve the people. And for that, I get to watch the beautiful waves and the sun rise and the sun set and life grow and change and children splashing and people laughing… and I am forced to look up into the sky, and am forced to rely on no one else but God….
God, Who is my anchor.
Sure, I toss about many times against my will… but if I just surrender, I might have fun and enjoy the ride.
No matter what is tossing you about, or even if you are enjoying peaceful waters, I hope you are enjoying the summer!