I’m staring at the most beautiful scene: A northern California shoreline at sunset. The sun hovers just above the waves, staining the heavens with brilliant shades of crimson and orange as it settles in for the night. Foam-topped waves tumble shoreward, churning and swirling among the smooth stones before pulling back for another run. Farther out, a jagged monolith juts out of the sea, black against the fiery backdrop, a lone gull perched on its top.
It’s only a picture, torn from last year’s calendar and tacked to my cubicle wall. But I hear the ocean’s timeless roar, feel the brisk breeze on my face, and I remember a time when I stood on such a beach watching the sunset after an exhilarating day flying kites and running barefoot in the sand. For three glorious days I’d thrown off the shackles of adult obligations to embrace childhood again, reveling in the crisp autumn air of a nearly-empty beach and casting aside cell phone, laptop and wrist watch to commune solely with wind and waves and to hear my Creator’s still small voice.
That evening aroused many emotions: tranquility, serenity, awe and breathless wonder, and even some silliness as I contemplated the cloud of steam that should have erupted when the sun hit the ocean. As a child I actually believed that—until my parents finally told me, very matter-of-factly, that the sun does not drop into the ocean. A basic science class explaining the true nature of the solar system later confirmed their words. But I still think one needs to entertain some silliness once in a while. Everyone needs a little humor and levity. I certainly do.
That meeting of sun and sea made me consider another aspect of life: How often does it seem we tread dangerous waters while heading straight into a fire? I know that feeling, as do countless others. Those pounding waves and raging fires can crush and consume—or they can refine and strengthen. Fire and water play leading roles in my fantasy novels as both destroyers and refiners as, literally and figuratively, my heroes pass through both. What determines how you emerge? Partly who you are: your attitude toward life and people, and how you deal with circumstances. Mostly it is what—or Who—you worship. Years ago I chose to worship Jesus Christ. Does he remove the obstacles? No. Do bad things still happen to us? Yes. Does he intervene in our behalf? Yes, sometimes in ways we don’t expect or think to be right. And does he walk with us in trials, offering grace and comfort? Absolutely!
Sometimes as I gaze at that picture I envy that gull which, unfettered by schedules, deadlines, and the demands of life simply takes to the heavens at will. But there’s a place within me where my Creator lives, where I can lay aside my burdens, collect my thoughts, and talk to Him—and listen when He speaks to my heart. Likely I’ll never live near a beach—but Christ has prepared a place for me more wonderful than any place on this earth. And someday I may even revisit that beach, kick off my shoes, launch my kite and watch it soar among the gulls. In the meantime I cherish the truth that, whether in crushing waves or searing fire, my Savior is always with me.