My wife and I own a modest townhome in North Topsail Beach, North Carolina. It's not one of those modern mansions on stilts. Just an older townhome, but it has a million-dollar view of the ocean. It feels like having the Atlantic in your backyard.
We've just come down for a long weekend to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. The moment I step out of the car and hear the crashing surf, it's like coils of chains fall from my shoulder. I stand up a little straighter, a tear comes to my eye, and I remember how to breathe without tension, worry, fear, ad infinitum. I've always felt drawn to the ocean. I can sit and watch the waves for hours on end. I will stare as far out to the horizon as my eyes will let me see. And, at night, the sounds of the relentless surf send me thoughtfully to sleep.
Now, understand, it's midFebruary. A nice day, but still winter. No one will be swimming in the ocean or the pool today. And yet, as we drove up the strip, we saw that people are all over the beach. Some sitting on blankets. Some walking dogs. Others just wandering hand in hand. And some walking alone along the sand, pausing from time to time to pick up a seashell or simply to stare.
Why do people feel drawn to the ocean or the lake or the mountains? The reasons are probably vast and varied, but I believe there is, if we are honest with ourselves, a deeper reason. The beauty of nature draws us to ponder eternity. No matter what we've been taught, we stand audience to the staggering enormity of creation and we know that this all cannot be the result of cosmic accidents. For me, I think of the massive continuous power of the waves. I think of the horizon and how far away and endless it seems. It tugs at the mind and soul.
Many of us ignore that spiritual pull. We assume it's beauty or relaxation or nostalgia that keeps us coming back again and again. But I believe it's nothing short of a signed, sealed, and delivered invitation from Almighty God to rethink our lives. It is the whisper of Jesus, "Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest for your soul."
CS Lewis once wrote, "If I find in myself desires which nothing in this
world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for
another world." And the impact of this desire is multiplied exponentially when we are in the midst of stunning creation. The beauty and vastness break through our meticulously constructed walls and force us to reckon with life more honestly than usual. For 85% of life we wear the mask. We self medicate. We numb ourselves. We get lost in routines. And, we keep busy. And, for some of us, we're running, fleeing madly from what we fear might be true.
But make no mistake, we are fooling ourselves. We are running around from thrill to thrill like trick or treaters on Halloween, hoping the rush won't end. But it does end. Lift the veil for a minute and really see. Every town has a cemetery. We pass by the legions of tombstones and shrug. But so once did all the people buried there. In traffic, a hearse goes by followed by twenty cars with little orange cards visible in the windshields. A neighbor gets sick. The headlines report another tragedy. We try to hide from it all. We desperately hide from the personal implications.
If you're approaching 50 like I am, maybe you've found yourselves also thinking more clearly about the enormity and brevity of life. We're no longer center stage. Our kids are. And soon, their kids will be. But, dang it, our lives count for something! All these experiences, the good, the bad, the love, the loss, the memories—it all matters, doesn't it? Or will it all, like Roy Batty in Bladerunner said, disappear "like tears…in rain?"
Many of us go through life thinking science has proven we're all just magnificent accidents, here today, gone tomorrow…forever. But this is part of the masquerade. This is part of the deadening of our souls to the reality that eternity is calling us. God is calling us.
As a kid did you ever keep critters (ants, beetles, caterpillars, salamanders, fish, etc) in a jar or aquarium? You watch them moving all around, bumping into their boundaries, seemingly resigned to their confined existence. Did you ever find yourself wondering what these tiny creatures are thinking?
We look in on them and watch them, thinking how funny that these creatures just go about their duties and routines. I wonder if we're actually just like those ants and varmints. Just live for living's sake. There's nothing more. All the while, our Creator watches and waits…and invites.