Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts at the Beach

Are you a beach person?

I have to say that I am, though I haven't come close to logging the kind of hours in the sand and surf that would qualify me as a bona fide "beach bum". Much to my regret, I rarely see the beach in person, but when I do, I find that there are few places on earth that turn my thoughts heavenward quite like this place does.

When I am here, I can't help but remember...

*God's words to Job, about when He created the sea: "Here your proud waves must stop!"

*God's mention of something called Leviathan, which makes me wonder just what all is swimming under there...


*The terror felt by Jesus' apostles when their boat was threatened by a stormy sea, and what must have been a flood of thoughts and emotions at His mastery over nature.

*Jesus walking along the top of the water.

*The resurrected Jesus grilling fish on the beach, and Peter the fisherman jumping overboard and swimming ashore to see Him. (Have you ever wondered how Jesus lit the coals for his cookout? I love to imagine that He spoke them into flame, just to save the time and aggravation.)

*Paul's mention of having been shipwrecked, and spending "a night and a day in the deep". Just the mere thought of this is terrifying to me.

The picture above was taken this afternoon, from my perspective, ankle-deep in the Gulf of Mexico, at Mustang Island, Texas.

I'll be visiting this spot again over the next few days, but I won't be venturing out into the water much further than I did to take this picture. I'm painfully aware of my limitations when it comes to the ocean. While its beauty and vastness inspire me, and I do love to swim, I just know that I don't belong out there. While I want to show our two little boys God's beauty in this place, I also fear what a moment's inattention here could cause.

Yes, I'll be trusting in God this week to keep my family safe in His care at the seashore, where I'm an alien and don't know what I'm doing.

Then we'll all return home, to solid ground, with no waves in sight, where I know what to do and can handle whatever comes along.

Maybe I should come here more often.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Mulligans

Did you see the sports highlight the other day about the golfer who broke his club in frustration after a bad shot, only to find that he had cut his hand open in the process?

Pretty embarrassing for him, to say the least, and kind of ironic, that in his anger over a poor shot, he would unwittingly impair his own ability to make the shots he was hoping for.

In a way, though, he might have been fortunate. Really, when do you think he will break another golf club? I highly doubt he ever will. The memory of this self-inflicted injury will probably be enough to spare his caddy the trouble of having to replace another broken club in the future. While this wasn't the ESPN moment this golfer would have preferred, it might end up being a valuable lesson learned.

If only it were always so with outbursts of anger.

If you're like me, it's not hard to compile a list of shameful memories of moments of unbridled anger. Moments marked by regrettable words and perhaps even physical displays of wrath. Moments that embarrassed, disappointed, or even frightened others; moments that changed other people's view of you; moments that made someone wonder about the depth of your commitment to Christ.

The difference between those moments and the golf highlight is who suffers the wound caused by the outburst.

Yes, the golfer made a bad impression, set a bad example, etc, but at the end of the day, he cut himself. No one else was hurt. No one else bled because of this impulsive act.

When it comes to the outbursts of anger you and I remember, it's usually the complete opposite. Usually the person delivering the blast walks away unscathed, and leaves others cut and bleeding, trying to process and recover from what just happened. The frightened child, the tearful spouse, the beleaguered co-worker, the suddenly cautious neighbor, all bear the wounds of outbursts they didn't want or ask for, and often carry these wounds alone, without even the basic first aid that allowed the golfer to at least stop the bleeding.

And I believe every one of us, when we look back on those moments, wish we could have somehow absorbed the wounds of our words ourselves, if it meant sparing others the hurt feelings and offenses we caused them.

And if we could immediately feel the hurt our own anger can cause, as the golfer did when he broke his club, might we too be less likely to "lose it" in the future?

Maybe so, but it doesn't work that way.

It's no wonder this specific danger is called out by name in scripture, as being the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:20), the opposite of the qualities to seek in a friend (Proverbs 22:24), and the opposite of the qualities sought in the shepherds of God's church (I Timothy 3:3).

Outbursts of anger.

You don't get a mulligan.