Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why can't we GET this?

I went to the beach today. I didn't want to go to the beach but I had to go since I was already within blocks of it due to an overnight visit with friends. The beach in March in the Northeast is rarely windless or warm. Today was no exception.

The sky was sunny and blue but no amount of sun this time of year could eschew the bone chilling cold of winter winds. Still, I forced myself to walk, hoping that by mashing through thick sand at the water's edge would be enough to get my heart pumping and warm me up. It did. Kinda.

Thankfully about 10 minutes into the battle, the winds took a coffee break. With relief and gratitude, I pressed on, looking for my 'expected' gift of shell or sea glass. The water's edge was more full than usual of shellish goodies but none held any particular interest.

I went farther down the beach to my favorite finding spot which I privately call Boomerang Beach. It was unusually devoid of shells or even fragments. I had been duped by Mother Nature. I stood in disappointed disbelief and turned my back to the sun (and the wind) which was now back from break. Perfect...

I decided to walk out onto 'my' jetty. I began to stare at the sea with I'm sure, the face of a spoiled child. I had been both tricked and defeated. Damned leap year...

But just as I was about to give up hope and walk away empty-handed, Grace appeared.

The spray from the waves (who themselves were fighting to arrive at their destination), began catching the sunlight and making an assembly-line of rainbows!

Again, I looked in disbelief; joyful disbelief. Wave after wave rolled towards the beach with crowns of Easter-egg pastels. This was both a moment of speechless joy and stunning embarrassment. Joy because of the beauty and the surprise; embarrassment as I realized I had secretly proclaimed God's beach, sans beach glass, was 'not enough'.

Enter God's grace. It shows up unexpected, unannounced, "turns our mourning into dancing" and turns us on our ear. It reminds us again and again that as either Calvin or Barth said: "God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves."

These "grace-bows" were not the things I was seeking or even thought possible. They also weren't 'things' I could pick up, claim as my own and put in my pocket. They weren't 'items' I could take home to add to my collections of already-full bowls of sea glass and special shells. They weren't boasting objects I could show fellow beach collectors or friends.

They were however, a most poignant reminder that God's Grace is freely given, but cannot be commanded, captured or collected. The grace-bows were also a reminder again of the ancient symbol of protection and promise given to us by God. Finally the rainbows were a reminder that God's love is still amazingly more abundant than we could ever ask or imagine, if only we can let go of our agenda and take time to notice and to receive God's.