Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Beaches (Not the Movie Though)

Last night my friend and I went to the ocean at about eleven thirty or so at night. I love going places at night, because that is when I feel the most at peace, and the most alive. I love walking in the quiet, breathing in the smells that only the nighttime can offer, clearing my head. It makes me stop. Slow down. Savor. But the ocean is by far one of my favorite night time places--and unfortunately I do not have the luxury of going there often. The ocean for me is a profoundly spiritual place. I have mostly experienced the ocean during the day. However, last night there was something vastly terrifying about being on the beach so late at night. The atmosphere was lovely, we sat and listened to the waves crash on the beach--no one was around. At the same time, I felt a sense of fear and urgency. I felt the smallness of myself in that moment, that while those waves were beautiful they also have the potential to crush you. I knew I was safe sitting there on the shore, but at the same time I still felt fear as I sat there thinking about the vastness and depth that was far beyond what I could see in that moment--the "what if I went out there right now?" I feel like this is how God is--there is a fear, but a safety at the same time--there is power and majesty. It is in these moments that I cannot help but think that there is something mysterious happening, something that I cannot put my finger on, but I get to be a part of.

I went through this period in college where I really had doubts about this whole thing. I mean Christianity and faith. The sociology side of my brain wanted to carry me down the path to completely writing religion off as something that was socially constructed. Did people just use it to feel good about themselves and give them hope? Was Jesus even real or just something we made up like a lot of cults tend to do? These were only a few of the questions that were running through my head, and there was (when I look back in hindsight) major spiritual warfare going on. I can't describe it, but it was the most fearful, panicky time in my life. I thought I was going to give up my faith, and I shed more tears over it then I could count. Dr. McKinney says that there are some things that science can try to explain, but everything else has to be left up to faith--therefore, sociology and physical science can only explain so much and I was finally able to rest in that. Science cannot quantify the spiritual world. That's why they call it a "leap of faith" I suppose. It is moments like last night that I can believe in the spiritual and Jesus and God--that I can let go of the logistics, of apologetics or theological questions and just simply experience.

I'm reading this book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. He raises a lot of hard questions. Things that seemingly could destroy your faith if you let them. But he still somehow believes--not because he hasn't thought about them or been troubled by them, but because it is the mystery that keeps bringing you back. It gives me comfort knowing that if someone else can have their questions un-answered, then maybe I can too.

As I looked out on the ocean last night I could not help but believe that this was wonderfully true. I don't think we're alone. What was in me last night was this beautiful sense of mystery, awe, fear, wonder. I don't know how this could exist without something far beyond us, something much larger then ourselves. I will never know all the answers, and there are some questions about faith and God and Christianity and Jesus that I will always have to wrestle with, and the tension will just be there always, but I suppose in the end I'm glad I can't explain it. Instead, you look out into the ocean and it just is what it is, you cannot quantify it or analyze it or put it in a box, you just have to take it in.

I love when Paul talks about how wide, how long, how high, how deep is the love of Christ. I wonder if he was sitting on a beach somewhere in Europe writing that while looking at the ocean. Because the thing is, Christ's love is all those things. And I think sometimes we have the same fear, the same sense of awe and mystery that we have when we look at the ocean in relation to that love. That love makes me scared, it has the power to crush me, to toss me, to move me. Once you go in too deep I wonder if you can really come back out--the tide just sort of pulls you out. You cannot mess around with the ocean or it will crush you. I don't feel like I have very many answers these days, but I do know that I experienced something real and mystical and beautiful and scary and inspiring last night...and I for that I am forever grateful.

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