It was late in the day, the sun had set and in the dwindling light of twilight, we approached the bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway. As we began the climb up the bridge, I quickly slid into an old familiar routine. I turned off the AC and rolled down the windows, breathing in the salty, marsh air. With each inhale, I filled my lungs with the rich, pungent, fertile air; with each exhale I let go of all of the urgencies of my ‘normal’ life. By the time I reached the barrier island, I felt as if had left all of my anxieties and worries on the mainland and I could fully relax for the first time in a long time.
I grew up close to the ocean and many of my most memorable childhood experiences are connected to the rhythm and cycles of the sea. It is there that I feel most at home with myself and the world. It is also a place, that I have often felt most at home with God. That’s one reason why I have been puzzled by the verse in Revelation that says that in the age to come there will be no more sea: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Rev 21:1) Perhaps, it is because in the new Jerusalem, we will no longer need the sea to feel close to God since we will be in the very presence of God.
The beaches where I spent all of my childhood and my young adult years are some of the largest oyster producing regions in the country. I don’t eat oysters, but I am fascinated by them. On this most recent trip, our first excursion out to explore was at low tide and in the marshes, the oyster beds were clearly visible. As I showed the oyster beds to the six young girls along on this trip, I shared how each oyster can be both male or female when the need arises and that an oyster even has the ability to fertilize itself. One my friends remarked, “That is really a great depiction isn’t it, of what it means to reflect the image of God?” Yes, I thought, and it is also food for thought about the meaning of sexuality for all God’s creatures.
At the beach, there are often many distractions to entertain; shops, recreational activities, restaurants. But, if you leave that to a minimum, one begins to gain a vivid sense of life and creation. The sun rises, the sun sets and in between there is the regular rhythm of tides and ocean currents, and the constant cadence of the surf. Even in the patterns of sea life, one gets a glimpse of the consistency and beauty of our Creator: in the constant surfacing of a dolphin, the intentional meandering of crabs, the laying of eggs of the sea turtles. The beauty and wonder of the created calls out to celebrate the beauty and wonder of the Creator. As John’s Revelation again reminds us, everything is drawn to bless the one who has created us: “Then I heard every creature in Heaven and earth, in underworld and sea, join in, all voices in all places, singing: To the One on the Throne! To the Lamb! The blessing, the honor, the glory, the strength, For age after age after age.” (Rev 5)