I believe in pursuing the things that set your soul on fire. For me, that’s watching the sunrise from the beach. Anyone who’s known me for the last year knows this, and is probably tired of hearing me talk about it. But, that last sentence holds the reason for this blog post: it’s been a year. This exact time last year is when I started going to the sunrise.
As I sit here, typing and reflecting, I can’t help but notice how so much has changed since that first one. The first person I watched it with is no longer in my life. I’ve learned what forgiveness is and now I talk to people I never thought I would be able to after hurt and heartache. I also learned that some of those people can be forgiven, but not let back into my life. I transferred universities and moved seven hours away from my home. I started drinking my coffee black. I’ve made new friends and discovered how absolutely extroverted I am. I started reading my Bible daily and got to know Jesus through His Word. I’ve filled four journals since last year, with memories and prayers and scriptures and sermon notes. I shared the Gospel for this first time, and also traveled internationally to tell kids about Jesus. I’ve seen how winter always turns into spring, darkness into light, grief into joy. Most importantly, I’ve learned God’s faithfulness and sovereignty in everything. I’m much more of a person now than I was a year ago, if that makes any sense. And yet, though almost everything in my life has changed or grown in some way, I always feel called back to the beach.
Jesus has met me at every sunrise I’ve been to. And truthfully, that’s why I keep going. I feel Him so closely there, on the beach, before most people have woken up. It’s a vulnerable time, sunrise is. It’s quiet and still and fragile, in a way. The One of my favorite parts about it is the very beginning, before I’m even at the beach. I like driving there, because it’s so dark and quiet and peaceful. I like knowing I’m awake before everyone else is. And I love the hopeful feeling I get, knowing I’m about to be directly in the presence of God glorifying himself.
I get to the beach and I immediately revel in the space there. It’s still dark, but color starts to show. Pink and orange and blue start to climb out of the water.
The sand extends in either direction as far as the eye can see. There’s room there. In my life, I don’t create a lot of breathing room. I keep myself busy and I love that, but I’ve found there’s a fine line between being busy, excited, and stimulated and just plain overwhelmed. I’ve danced into the “overwhelmed” side of that line far too often. But, the beach. The beach shows me what space, what breathing room, looks like and how beautiful it is to leave room. Because when you leave some space, you give God room to show up. He takes empty space and creates something beautiful.
The beach teaches me how to slow down. After all, something I’m learning about God right now is His slowness. We serve a slow God. He takes his time to make things beautiful, to shape and mold us. Yet, in everything, His timing is perfect, and his timing displays His great Grace. He could’ve fixed our broken humanity with a snap of his star-holding fingers, but instead he sent a child in a manger. And that was so much better.
Then, the sun’s reaching fingers grab ahold of the horizon. Night turns to morning. Light and warmth are extended over dark waters. God glorifies Himself and puts it on full display.
In all reality, the sun needs to shine so there’s day and then the sun needs to not shine so that there’s night. Those are both functional things. Yet, we also have sunset and sunrise. God totally could’ve just made the sun appear and disappear; He didn’t have to give us sunrise or sunset, but He did and I think that shows us something about His character. He delights in making beautiful things. His grace is shown through the fact that He paints the sky for us when it’s unnecessary. He makes something beautiful when most people aren’t even awake to see it. God loves beauty, and God loves us.
Jesus is a lot like sunrise. He brings hope and redemption and light over our dark, murky waters. He gives us a new beginning. Sunrise is a grace from God, and Jesus is God’s grace personified.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace