Anyone who knows me, even if they’ve only known me for a short while, can probably tell you that I love the beach. I always have.
It isn’t that I’m a sun-worshiper, seeking the perfect golden glow. It’s not that I love to be in the ocean, swimming or enjoying some kind of water sport. I rarely go in the water at all.
I don’t like crowds or myself in a bathing suit, for that matter. So what’s the attraction?
It all started when I was a little girl, vacationing on Cape Cod with my grandparents. Every morning, my grandma would come to my bed and quietly wake me up so we could walk down to the beach, just her and me. I don’t really remember what we talked about, just that we talked a lot, and I felt special. We chose and collected shells together (only the best ones), and she would wash and dry them for me back at the cottage, after she cooked breakfast for us all. I viewed that time with her as sacred. I miss those days, and I miss my grandma. But a seed was planted in me way back then that has now grown to full flower.
Now every spring, on a warm day and after a dreadfully long and cold winter season, I go back to the beach, and it’s as if I am reunited with a long-lost lover. Every year my eyes tear up, my shoulders drop, I sigh, and all feels right in the world.
Even without my grandma, the beach has become a sacred place for me, a place to meet with God and feel, without a doubt, that I have arrived home. I belong there.
Do you have such a place? One that stirs up longing inside you when you think of it? Someplace you just need to be?
For some it’s in the mountains, for some at the lake. For others, among the vast cornfields and plains of the Midwest. But no matter where your place is, the longing, the drawing, the belonging-ness of it all…it comes from God.
For starters, I think we all long to be in a place of beauty. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder (you won’t catch me frolicking in the cornfields,) but all beauty points to the Creator. Just like a great painting lets you into the minds-eye of the artist, so the natural world testifies to the wonder of God himself. And he draws us, his greatest creation, to the places he knows we will meet him in one way or another.
He knows us so well, and he knows just what puts us at ease and in a place of receptivity to his voice. I think even the colors speak to us. For me, it’s the blue. Blue is deep, serene, calming–the antidote for my persistently anxious soul. Others may find the dominant colors of their chosen retreat to be the ones that most satisfy their own needs. The newness and refreshment that comes from an expanse of green fields, the majestic purple skies over equally majestic purple mountains.
Think of the colors you love and how they make you feel. And the places they are on display the best, and how those make you feel.
The vastness of the ocean and its seemingly endless horizon put eternity in perspective for me. The relentless waves never stop rolling in. From the dawn of time they have ebbed and flowed without ceasing. There’s something profoundly comforting in that for me. That, in a world where nothing feels stable (often, me included,) there are some things that do not change.
Once, during a train ride along the northwestern coast of Italy, I caught an unexpected glimpse of the ocean as we emerged from out of a long, dark tunnel. I think I actually gasped, it so took my breath away. But before I could draw in that next breath, the Lord spoke these words to me:
See that ocean you love so much? Think of how vast it is, how deep, how wide. Think of the volumes it can contain! Think of how the horizon stretches out to infinity in your sight. I am telling you, all of that cannot contain my love for you. It is bigger. It is deeper. It is wider. And it has no end.
You don’t easily forget words like that. And you know that every time you revisit the ocean, you will be reminded of the magnitude of God’s love for you. And I think that’s probably the point.
I used to feel silly about my unabashed love for the beach, and my pie-in-the-sky dream of owning a beach house someday. But a friend asked me this provocative question several years ago that changed my perspective: “What if God put those dreams in you? Wouldn’t it then be incumbent upon you to pursue them?”
And I’m asking you now, are there dreams that burn inside you, places your heart longs to go, ones that are so powerful you just can’t shake them?
Could it be that God gave you those?
Do you need permission to pursue them?
I’m here to tell you, my friends, don’t let those dreams stay on the back burner for long. Get out and pursue God in the places you love most. He’s waiting to speak something really special to you there. I just know it.
In a few more years, we will have that beach house I have dreamed of, and most any day I please, I will be able to walk along the ocean shore. We’ve taken those dreams seriously, and this is one of the ways we’ve chosen to go running after God. It’s certainly not the only way that I can meet with him, but it’s definitely my favorite.
I have a hunch it’s His favorite way to meet with me, too.
And that’s why I need the beach.
Dream with me. Where is the place you most long to be? Where do you enjoy meeting with God?