I was 16 years old before I saw the ocean. While I had spent much of my childhood in the land of 10,000 lakes, visited the great lake they call Gitche-Gumee (Superior) and been to the source of the mighty Mississippi River and the Great Salt Lake, the ocean was still a whole new experience. It was the Pacific Ocean and the waves were big and the water was cold. I can barely describe the experience. It was amazing. Hypnotic. Cathartic. Holy. Later I would visit the Atlantic (both sides) and the Caribbean but my favorite salt water place is the Gulf of Mexico.
This can probably be attributed to a number of factors: the water temperature, proximity, familiarity, but I think mostly, it is because that is where I got to encounter the ocean with children. To see the ocean through a child's eyes is a wondrous thing. Chasing and being chased by water, digging down in the sand where an air hole appears, building castles and counting pelicans provide endless delights for a child. Searching for shells and examining jellyfish provide many opportunities to encounter life and death in the most natural of settings. The questions come faster than you can answer them: Where did it go? Why did it die? Is it in heaven? Where is the mommy fish? Who ate it? What was inside this shell? Why does it only have one foot? Why are those shells stuck to the boat?
At the water's edge, life and death are encountered in (for most kids) an impersonal and un-painful way. Dead fish wash ashore. Empty shells abound. Big fish eat little fish, birds pick the shore clean, and the waves roll in and out relentlessly. Nowhere can you find God's circle of life more clearly demonstrated than at the beach. Life and death are the BIG topics that get us to thinking about God. Try taking your kids to the beach this summer and think theologically for a bit!
Come on in, the water's deep but filled with life and joy!