“You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself flows in your veins…” Thomas Traherne
On Monday I spent a couple hours at one of my favorite beaches in town. For me, it has become a sacred space. It is beautiful and quiet, at least on weekdays. There is a fun little wave that can break there. But honestly, it is a place where I surf even when the waves are flat. I paddle out even when it’s better everywhere else. Because I’ve grown attached to it. It is familiar. It is a place where I belong. And it is a place where I feel God’s closeness.
For me, it has become a thin place. It is a place where heaven and earth almost intersect, but not quite. The boundary between worlds feels paper thin. I often hear God’s still, small voice.
As I walked down the steps, I could see a cluster of people out there surfing. It was a steady wind swell…playful and fun. As I changed into my wetsuit and threw a quick coat of new wax over the building layers on my board, I watched as one surfer after another rode their last wave in. By the time I started paddling, the lineup was empty. Lucky me!
My first wave was a marvelous little gem that popped up out of nowhere. Wind swell is so fun! The waves are stacked close together. They are peaky. You gotta be quick to your feet. After 25 minutes I’d lost count of how many waves I’d ridden.
I thought, I can’t believe I have it to myself! And that’s when I felt a little poke in the ribs. As if God was saying, “you’re not alone.” Oh yeah. How quickly I forget. God is here with me. Remembering this causes the whole context to expand. Suddenly I feel His joy as well as mine.
As a spiritual director, I often ask the person I’m directing where God is in the situation they’re describing to me. Because, we all know, God has a way of disappearing into our peripheral vision, especially when we become overly focused. Whether it is worry, or anxiety, or even pleasure or joy, if we aren’t careful, we become myopic, nearsighted. We see the details separated from their designer. We enjoy the gift and forget the giver.
And, as a result, we lose the depth of meaning, the deep renewal that joy brings, the lightness of perspective that comes from finding God amid our circumstances. This connection is where the real power lies. Without it, experiences lose not only their taste but their ability to nourish our souls.
Thomas Traherne writes, “Your enjoyment of the world is never right till every morning you awake in heaven, see yourself in your Father’s palace, and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys, having such a reverend esteem of all, as if you were among the angels.”
How I long to see the world in such a way!
It can take so much work to keep God in our perspective. My mind is always wandering down rabbit trails that lead to some worry or complexity or problem to solve. While there might be a semblance of value to this, often the energy expended could be better spent simply remaining present. Savoring the joy that is before me. Enjoying God’s immediate presence.
As I take my last wave in, I feel renewed. The emptiness has been satiated. I feel God’s pleasure. I’m full.