Continuing from last entry:
We must not lose ourselves in abstract words. It is better to put aside the books and take the family to the seaside. Standing there on the sand, I am confronted with a more tangible absolute. The ocean has its own eternal rhythms. It is a beneficent vision, and some people go no further than that. They loll on the beach, soaking up the rays, and never set foot in the water.
This will not do. Look at the children splashing in the shallows, they know better. So my first encounter with the infinite is a mild ripple of froth surging around my ankles as I stand poised at the edge of two worlds. This is pleasant, a tickling feeling, a visitation from another realm. So I go out another step or two, to get the sand washed off my ankles. But I pause when the wave reaches my knees, because I become aware of a faint tug as the wave recedes. It is pulling me to itself, and I resist and step back. After all, I am a land creature.
Now I am surrounded by a moving mass of water. But it is no threat to me, my feet are still firmly anchored in sand. Small pebbles rush to and fro around me, their edges scoured smooth by waves and grit. I am put to shame by children cavorting with plastic toys much farther from shore. So I wade out till my waist and chest are submerged. Now my connection with past solidities is more tenuous. I am buffeted by the double motion of the water, first pressing me back towards land, then pulling me deeper. At last I can feel the power of the sea. Now I must resist in strength, because to yield is fatal – the sea will suck me into itself.
And it is here, in this spot of insignificance and vulnerability, that I come to know the dual nature of God. “All your waves and your billows have gone over me” (Ps 42). Those are the waves of holy love, waves that both crush and heal, that overpower and sustain. The little wavelets of froth that run up the beach to tickle the feet of the men who sleep – those are messages of his love, they are enticements to arise and come out into the shallows where the undertow of his holiness can begin to work on us and, yes, to pull us farther out. To yield is fatal to human nature, it is to be surrendered to God’s purposes.
We are creatures of two natures, of time and eternity, of land and sea, but at home in neither. Awkward amphibians. And so, like pebbles caught in the surf, we are dashed this way and that, while the grains of sand (our life circumstances) scour and polish us. But to what end? So we end up as an insensate rocks, casualties of our encounters with the infinite? No, that is the effect of the sea on the flotsam around us, but it is not God’s purpose for us. His purpose is not to make us into pebbles but into those wavelets of foam and froth, going back up the beach, seeking out the sleepers, bidding them to wake, to come and touch the sea and to be lost and transformed in its depths. He seeks to replicate in us his two-fold nature, the love and the holiness, and to give us a share in his redemptive work.
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The key to the whole message of the Bible, the character of God, the ministry of Jesus and the destiny of humanity is found in one word: holylove
And, as the Scripture says in another context, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”