A sea of papers sit in piles in front of me. Papers to grade. Words written, thoughtfully. Hopes that the teacher will find brilliance written there.
Silence surrounds me. My mind wonders and I look out on the sea. The ocean, set out before me this mid-May day. Soft clouds loom over head, gray. Sky and sea become one canvas of grays and whites. Surfers wait, patiently. Small dark specks bobbing in the waters.
I return to the papers, but I feel the sea and sand beckoning me. I can’t escape the lyric voices. Birds calling. Wave’s rhythmic roar. Like the Sirens, lyric voices.
I must walk. I bundle up and close the door behind me. Sea air. Damp mist. Wind at my back. Creation. God’s beauty.
This is life.
One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
When I was young, we spent summers at the Oregon coast. We had a small house–an “A” frame–three blocks from the Pacific Ocean. We lived on Third Street in a town so small that we walked or rode bikes everywhere. And, there was no mail service. We simply walked to the post office and asked if any mail had arrived for our family.
I walked on the beach every day, usually by myself. My Keds tennis shoes and my white windbreaker when it was cool or especially windy. Hands in my pockets, I walked. For hours. The ocean drowned out the distraction of the world. Seagulls floated. Sand pipers scurried away from the waves.
I breathed in the beauty and solitude. This is where I knew–and still know–God exists. This is the place I return when I need to remember.
My walk is like walking a labyrinth of sorts. I head into the wind at a place in the wet sand that I call the “shell line.” Here, if you look down the beach, you see a narrow, white-speckled path along the sand–as far as the eye can see. It weaves its way along beyond the mist.
But here, I see things others don’t. I search for God’s beauty and find it. Eyes cast down, I slowly and deliberately step. My eyes scan the shell line for small, perfect circles. Baby, snow-white sand dollars, some no more than a quarter inch across. Others larger.
The world falls away.
A sort of reverence envelops me. Reverence for God’s creation. Prayerful meditation with each step. Aware of everything, yet aware of nothing.
Before me, a small white circle appears in the sand, distinct among the other angular pieces of broken shell that surround it. I kneel and pick it up with my left hand. Perfect. Beautiful. I brush off the wet sand, blow on it, and gently place it in the palm of my right hand.
I look out on the ocean for a moment, brush my hair from my face and begin again. While I no longer spend my summers at the beach, I return to this place several times a year. I walk on the beach and the waves beckon me to the shell line. My labyrinth. A place where I journey toward God.
A sacred place in God’s creation. A sacred journey each time I come. Each visit brings healing, understanding, renewal.
A sanctuary. The Lord’s temple. I “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” here. I seek Him and I find Him.
This is where I know.
Where will you find a sacred space today? Where do you gaze upon God’s beauty and know that He is God?