We are spending a short break at the coast in the middle of the third wave of the COVID pandemic in South Africa. Most of the time we sit on our balcony overlooking the beach.
We were fascinated by a family on the beach this morning. A boy of about six, his sister of about four, twins of around a year, mom, dad and granny. The twins got my attention. The one had only one goal in mind. He (it may have been she) just had to get to the sea. He could barely walk five steps without falling on his face in the sand, but he got up, crawled a couple of meters, got back on unsteady feet and walked again ... another five steps ... down on his face.
His dad, and mom, who was hovering close by, had to pick him up at the edge of the water three times in the space of about thirty minutes. They would carry him forty odd meters back on the sand, put him down and the little one just went for it again ... same pattern.
And mom and dad? They kept on running, picking up, carrying sometimes two babies at once, while granny was keeping the other two toddlers out of the deeper water. They did all of that laughing and playing. All the work was fun.
And the babies? Falling face first in the sand can just not be a good experience. Really putting in effort to reach the water and then to be picked up and transported right back to where you have started, should be discouraging and frustrating. Not for them. They were enjoying the game, the effort, the attention from the parents.
I think I may have heard the voice of my Father this morning.
I think this is roughly what I may have heard:
"I showed you a picture of life. You were looking at us ... you and LInda, your children, your friends, humankind ... and me. We are playing on my Beach ... the one you call "Creation".
There is a whole cloud of witnesses looking at this scene from a distance. You don't see them, but just like you were observing this family from your balcony, so they are your unseen audience.
You are falling on your faces all the time for you still have much to learn about walking in this realm. You get up, crawl, run, fall and I have had to save you many times from drowning.
Your determination to have what you desire, is the perfect showcase for my love. Falling and getting up and falling and getting up gives me an opportunity to get involved with you, to pick you up and hold you, to teach you about my love for you. You get frustrated and hurt because you are picked up and taken to places where you don't want to be.
But all the time you are learning about the invisible qualities of love, about the determination of love to give and give and give without expectation. You are learning about commitment and forgiveness and grace and the danger of the sea.
On my Beach, the sea represents something else. Dying, when you are with me is not your enemy. All your instincts want to protect you from loss and especially from the final loss of dying but death is not your foe, it is your deliverance. Loss is not your enemy, it is your friend. Being picked up and turned around in the opposite direction of where you want to go, is not suffering, it is my love. Moving the goal posts just when you are ready to kick the winning goal, is grace.
No, on my Beach, the sea represents self and self is mortally dangerous for your hidden life with me. Self threatens to separate you from me, to suck you in, to drown you and break our closeness. In there I can't reach you, you forget about me and you are consumed with getting and keeping what you have accumulated.
For some reason you keep on running back to self. You want to drown yourself in getting, in winning, in fighting loss, in controlling, in saving your life. And I have to save you time and time again. I take you away from yourself, point you into the direction of my selfless life and when I look up, you are on your way again.
But that is the way of humans. That is what even Jesus needed to learn while he was on my beach. And he had to learn it in the same way. Falling on his face in the sand, being turned around all the time to find the safety of love again. He hit entrepreneurs in the temple with a whip, he called the religious elite of the day and even his friends names, he begged to be released from his mission, but in the end he slowly surrendered to me. He relaxed in my arms, while hanging on a cross, gave his life to me and joined the cloud of witnesses for a while.
On the Beach of Life you are learning that self can be enjoyed, that it is also part of the plan and how you can become my showcase. Jesus modeled that the ocean is a place to be enjoyed, not avoided, not given up on. That is is such a beautiful place that he gave up his place with me to experience the raw glory of relationships, of disappointments, of the consequences of selfish choices; of pain and poverty and abundance; of betrayal and loyalty and commitment; of surrender ... the physical manifestations of love.
You are learning that self is a gift to be lived in fullness, but that it can be surrendered. That self is as beautiful as the ocean, as versatile, as productive and as enjoyable. You are learning how to swim safely in self.
You are learning on this beach, that contentment is your protection. To be content in the ocean of self, to be content with your face in the sand, to be content in my arms, to be content with your friends, to be content on a cross ... that is your salvation.
I am sorry that the veil is still so thick and that you are often not aware of my love and of how glorious your role is in this scenario. That you experience my resque missions as punishment that frustrates you.
Like Jesus, you are both a showcase for my love and a conduit for that love to flow to this world you live in. In you is another kind of life and that life is the light I sent to this world in Jesus. It is a new selfless life that you were created to showcase. A new approach that makes this creation a beach holiday and its pain and loss bearable. It is life on the beach, while enjoying the sea ... it is life lived in harmony with yourself, with me, with all people and with the earth. It is real life.
So, relax in my arms, fall, get up, stumble, be overwhelmed by the water of self and learn how to enjoy the perfect vacation in the midst of a pandemic and state capture and backache and faltering eyesight ... for without all of that you will never be able to fulfill your mission to make me visible."
I ponder all of this, and I must confess that much of this may be controversial ... I just know that I am living it day by day, whether I like it or not. I did not hear God speaking with an audible voice, so I am not sure I have even heard well.
I know there will be people out there who will say that it can never be God ... and I want to run back to the sea, immerse myself in me and fight again to be correct, to impress you, to have a handle on life and love and God. And delete this post ... but I am learning ...
I think I have heard enough to hold on to ... if only for this day. This life is exceptionally beautiful and something to be enjoyed. Attachment is the danger. Being consumed by life instead of living it is the thing that kills. I can swim, be myself, enjoy myself and everything this glorious life offers me as long as I am aware that this life is a showcase for the drama of love.
This beautiful life is a showcase for Someone unseen who desires to be known. And Love cannot be shown in any other way but through sin and forgiveness, hurt and healing, betrayal and commitment. And I commit again to be that showcase today ... when falling on my face, when feeling like a failure, when not reaching my goals, when being dragged away from my desires, when feeling arms around me, when hearing laughter and applause from an unseen audience.
Today I only want to be a wonderful, unique, one-of-a-kind showcase of Love and enjoy every moment of it - both the good moments and the tough moments.
Somewhere in my mind a connection was made with purpose and destiny; with the glory of self, and of life and of God and Love during a beach holiday in the middle of the third wave of a pandemic.