“They say that whenever the theologian Paul Tillich went to the beach, he would pile up a mound of sand and sit on it gazing out at the ocean with tears running down his cheeks. . Maybe what made him weep was how vast and overwhelming it was and yet at the same time as near as the breath of it in his nostrils, as salty as his own tears.” —Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words (HarperOne, 2009).
I share Tillich’s awe every time I go to the ocean or the Gulf. It is indeed an experience of both vastness and closeness with Nature and with some Power greater than ourselves. Today I also think about how destructive the sea can be, as I say prayers for friends on the North Carolina coast who have been devastated by Hurricane Florence. I remember well the vast destruction along the Gulf of Mexico after hurricanes Frederick, Ivan, a Katrina, and Michael..
I also think of the pleasure that the sea and the sand have brought to generations. The sound of the waves calms my soul. Watching children swim and play in the sand pulls at the heartstrings of the child within me. Watching families, lovers, children walk the surf is a lesson in our connectedness to each other. The dolphins, the pelicans, the lone osprey are a constant reminder of the varieties of coexistent life with agendas that differ from our own. The “turtle people” who walk the beach in the early morning looking for turtle tracks to secret nests are, to me, icons of faithfulness and caring about something other than the self.
I see the ocean, the sea, the Gulf, the sand as icons of something created out of love, no matter what the process was. Living by the sea is like being in a loving relationship with spouse, friend, children. Whenever we take the chance of offering ourselves, our love, to another, it can be beautiful beyond words, like the sea.
At the same time, living on the Gulf, we are open to storms—sometimes as ugly and powerful as this hurricane. But like the people I observe by the sea, we remember that the positive potential of love many times overwhelms the possible hurtful negative. The lows are pale in comparison to the highs. We keep on picking up the mess and forgive the wind and the sea and those we love, and hope they can likewise forgive us for the harm we have knowingly or unknowingly done to them.
Come and get a signed copy of the new book
Just in time for the holidays
A Spiritual Rx for Advent Christmas, and Epiphany
The Sequel to A Spiritual Rx for Lent and Easter
Both are $18
All Money from sale of the books goes either to Camp Mitchel Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas or Hurricane Relief in the Diocese of Central Gulf Coast
Seibert’s, 27 River Ridge Road, Little Rock, Arkansas 72227
10 to noon, Saturday September 14, 2019