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Sarah sees the Sea

"I've never been to the beach." Simple sentence.
"You've never?" I remember stammering back at her.  I couldn't wrap my head around it.
I stated the obvious back to her in question form, "You mean you have never seen the waves? You've never seen an ocean?"
She nods back.  Of course that is the truth.
"But you're nineteen."  I tell her what she already knows.
 She's nodding back, laughing at me telling her her own age.
She fits into a small group.  A handful of people I know.  People that have never seen the ocean.
I guess that used to be common place; however, when you live only five hours from the nearest shore line it's not too common.
My great grandmother (the one who lived long and always seemed to be my grandmother) never saw the ocean.  I remember someone saying this at her passing and my seventeen year old heart saddened.  "She never left the state of North Carolina save her few trips to Virginia," my mom told me.  I guess it made sense to people who lived off of their land entirely.  No time to leave hundreds of chickens and fields of produce.  No time when honey had to be harvested and butter churned out.
Still even then it made me sad.
I remember meeting mid westerners that had never seen an ocean.
"We've been to lakes.  They look as big as oceans."  They explained.  That seemed better.  At least they knew the feeling,  though nothing will ever convince me that a lake is an ocean substitute.
I knew it could feel like the real deal.  I had seen a Nicaraguan lake that was so expansive that it seemed to be an endless sea.
But Sarah my  nineteen year old friend had never been to a lake of that size before.
I felt sad when she told me and from then on I wanted to take her to see it.  I remember whenever ideas of beach vacations came up I wanted her with us.  Some how it never worked out.  A few years passed without us going to the beach as a family.
This year when we decided to plan our beach vacation the idea resurfaced.  My husband suggested it immediately, "Let's take Sarah."
I nodded.  She had to go.  We could take her. But before we could take her...
She told me simply,
"I'm going to the beach next week."
My eyes rounded, smiled big, "Really?! Really, Sarah?!"
She sketched out plans for a weekend away with her still new husband.
Just like that she was going to the beach for a weekend of rest.  Away from so much stress and pressure of care taking an invalid grandmother and crazy busy work schedules.
Just like that she was going to see the beach.  Experience it.  This great omission of life experience would be finally met.
"Ok, Sarah.  I mean it.  I want you to try to remember for me what it was like to see the beach the first  time.  I want to know it. All of it.  Could you try to remember the details?  What you first noticed." I rattled on my requests.
She was holding my squirming baby and her brown eyes twinkled back at me.  Amused I think.
"Yes." she replied.  Indulging me.  I think she knew I'd ask.
Something in me so wanted to know what a twenty-two year old first thinks of when she sees the sand sliding beneath the weight of millions of gallons of salty sea water colliding with shore line.  I wanted to know what she felt like when she looked out and saw an eternity of water merge with the horizon line.
Part of me wanted to watch her reaction.  Wish I was there.
I remembering treasuring the reaction of my kids the first time their feet flirted with the waves and their toes timidly splashed in tide pools.
This past weekend was her beach trip.
 Yesterday,  casually we talked over moving boxes and children singing, fighting, interrupting...
"So Sarah, what was it like?"
Before she could answer I prefaced it, "What was your first thought of the beach?" I wanted to know the first impression.
Her reply surprised me.
" I couldn't believe that there was another whole world of life swimming in the water.  That I couldn't see."
Wasn't what i expected.  No comments on wind in her hair or the smell of salt, the rush of water, the noise...
I leaned my head to the side, "What do you mean? You mean all of the sea life? The fish? The water is teeming with life you can't see?"
"Yes!"  She said.  I got it.
Then she added to this observation.
"Watching the waves it boggled my mind that the waves endlessly roll in.  The ocean is constantly generating it.  Even though I've never seen it. Kind of like when you realize that people's lives are constantly moving and going on even when you never see them."
I nodded.
"I get it.  The beach is constant. Constant motion.  Life is like that too.  People's lives, all of life is continually moving, marching on being lived out all of the time despite the fact that we mostly just see ours and the few people we most closely share life with.  But there is so much more.  Always so much more going on than we know."
I liked her observations.
I liked that she first thought of everything she couldn't see.  How the thick dark blue green of North Carolina sea water shields and houses myriads of sea creatures.  That there is so much under the surface.  So much going on and we can never even see it.
It reminds me of two things I'm trying to now hold on to.  This idea that there is so much more going on that what meets the eye.
John Piper says it best like this, "God is always doing 10,000 things in your life and you may be aware of three of them."
It's true.  We really have only a small clue of what is going on.  The way Jesus is using the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful...How He is using our sin, weaknesses, and redemption.  How He weaves all parts of our stories with others.  All of it.  All of history and its all pounding out His purposes in the end.  So much of it we can't see.  What He is doing turns out to be manifold, much and we only see it in bite sized pieces.
Sarah and I talked about her observations of the ocean and where her mind drifted immediately and I found myself interested that her heart drifted to deeper things immediately.  Not surface.  Not the physical sand and sunset slow dipping in the water, but immediately went to deeper truth.
This idea that the ocean is constantly beating, tides pulling sand back into the thick depths of water and then pushing driftwood debris and scattering sea shell confetti back in its wake while we all sleep and live, play and cry and march throughout our days....
It keeps going on.  As life does. Life is not static, its moving.  Time blurring by.  For everyone.  Our time running out, running fast
After listening to Sarah's observations I came away with this one.
Just as Sarah had only heard about the ocean but never experienced it, Heaven exists.  We hear about it in sermons, mentions of its beauty and heart healing joy within scripture, and we hear the eternal whispers of its reality within our own hearts where God has set eternity.  We ourselves know there is something better . There must be.  We know in the end we were made for it.  We are hoping wildly that there is something better than this place.  Somewhere we will be relieved of pain done to us and forever forget the pain we ourselves have inflicted on others. Where our tears will be wiped away and our desire for answers will cease as we are made whole in the presence of God Himself. All longing fully satisfied forever.  
Something to hope in, to hang onto, to live for.
But we don't yet know it.
We know of it and we may know the maker of Heaven.  Jesus.  We may be tightly holding His hands now to guide us through this life, but we haven't yet been there. We see glimpses of it.  We do experience tastes of it.
Yet we still haven't been.
Like the beach's seemingly eternal tides, Heaven is gloriously existing filled with God's light and presence now.  And yet we cannot see it.
Because we have never been doesn't diminish it's existence.
We hang on to Him now, to cross over into that very real threshold then, to be with Him there.
I wonder if God watches expectantly for the looks on faces when they first see Heaven.  When eyes widen, jaws drop, a soul who has long heard of Heaven, first tries somehow to take it in.
I'm sure He does. The vast array of emotions and awe that flicker across the face.
I wonder if He asks us, even though He knows...
"What do you think?" I'm sure He smiles, maybe laughs knowing that our minds can't contain what we see, when what we have heard pales in comparison to what will stand before us, what opens up in front of us.  When our faith literally becomes our sight.  What we hoped for is now fully tangible and as real as any reality we have ever known.
One day....
Yet today,
I'm so glad Sarah finally saw the ocean.
I think everyone needs to.
It's a sacred spot.  And that was a holy moment.  For her.
I love what she noticed, and I love that right now as I do normal things and walk through a normal day there is so much more going on in my life and in all of humanity than we know.  That God is always moving and working out His plans no matter what seems to be occurring. And that just as sure as I can take my own pulse and know my heart is beating, the eternal heart beat of God is coursing throughout all of Heaven right now with His glory and their are millions already there delighting in Him there. Now.  Right now as the ocean is pouring out all her salty gallons across thousands of shore line miles constantly, there are simultaneously people endlessly enjoying the pleasure of Jesus right now.  People we know, that we loved in this life, that we held hands with and wished to see again. They are fully alive right now, as are we.  Just hidden from us for a time. This bears important weight for Sarah.  Her mom kissed the world and those she loved good bye early.  Much to early it seemed. And yet she is fully alive existing in a very real Heaven. She didn't cease to exist when the ground swallowed her casket, she kept on existing just like that constant surf.
And kind of like Sarah all of the sudden got to go to the beach, what had dreamed of finally happened uncerimoniously, one day we will be there. One day she will be there. She will hold that hand again, see the face long lost and loved and know with full assurance she is well and has been cradled in the arms of Heaven itself.


  1. love that she went deeper - a surprise to me, as well - i grew up a mile from the Pacific and now only 7 miles but rarely go. you may have convinced me to this weekend! or today! next to you at holley's this am on the central coast of CA.

  2. Somer,
    What a beautiful piece you've written, woven with such gems to ponder! I love the line you quoted from John Piper (I've heard it too) that we are so unaware of what God is doing in our lives and if we had eyes to see the unseen, how different things would be for us. I love that you wanted to take your friend to see the ocean and I love how curious you were to find out her first impressions! It was so much fun with my niece and nephew, experiencing all their firsts as babies and toddlers, as I'm sure you know with your own children. Loved reading this today and thank you for always caring about me! xoxo


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