Monday, May 28

Red flags at my beach day

Tropical storms threatened the Savannah area this weekend, but one of my girl friends and I braved the beach anyway.  Even though the Atlantic coast is no Gulf, I jump at any chance to be near the water.  So we braved the heavy pre-storm winds and sat by the water.  My friend got up and went for a walk after a while, leaving me alone to enjoy the warm sand and the strong breeze that gave me my first non-sweaty beach experience ever.  From my towel I watched the kite surfers soar up and down the coast and listened to the beachgoers around me:

"The waves keep hitting too close to my stuff."
"The wind is unbearable.  Sand keeps hitting my face."
"I keep trying to wet just my feet, but the waves keep hitting my bathing suit."
"I thought the tide already went back out.  Why does the water keep coming back?"

It's interesting that people travel hours to get to the ocean, only to complain when it's not a controlled, tidy experience.  Visitors plan their beach trips all spring, only to be disappointed when nature proves to be out of control.  They want warm sun, but not too much heat.  They want a cool, steady breeze, but not so much that it blows sand on their towels.  They want the ocean, but would really just love for it to be still and quiet while they sunbathe.  But that's not how it is.  The ocean is vast and wild; the breeze comes and goes in defiance of the visitor's expectations; the waves crash on the shore whether a family is relaxing in that spot or not.  Everything about the beach is big, beautiful, powerful, and beyond our control--and it's incredible.  Yet every single family around me on Sunday was complaining that the experience was not living up to their expectations.  It didn't fit in the neat vision they had for their long-anticipated vacation.

I wondered, don't we treat God the same way?  We want His love, but just the merciful part--hold the justice, please.  We want to see His power, but only as it appears to grant our narrow-minded wishes and vision for our lives on this earth.  We want Him to make us feel warm and fuzzy and at ease, and we are offended if we experience anything beyond that.  We make a little God-compartment in our busy lives and expect Him to fit Himself inside those limits.  The God Who made the universe is fiercely powerful and far outside our feeble expectations, but we don't appreciate the difference--we are put off by it.

Could we appreciate an ocean that lay perfectly still, bordered by beaches of flat sand?  One that never allowed waves to disturb the shore or our neatly arranged sunbathing site?  A beach that never changed throughout the day or the seasons?  It makes me a little sad to think that many of my fellow beachgoers this weekend would prefer it to the untamed experience we actually get.

Would you really be interested in a Creator you could fully comprehend?  Could we worship a God Who always gave us exactly what we wanted and never challenged us to be more than what your plans dictated?  Do we really want a God small enough to fit in the box we set aside for Him?

The next time I feel overwhelmed by God or the direction He's sending me, I'm going to try to stop the complaining before it starts and respect that He is beyond all my expectations and understanding. I'll remember the beautiful day at the beach when no one around me appreciated the wild, natural beauty interrupting their plans and thank God for being bigger than my understanding--for being big enough to worship.

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