During the last week, I was on vacation with my family and one of my best friends. It was a great opportunity to spend time together laughing, eating, playing, and enjoying each other’s company. It was a much needed break from the daily stresses of life. We spent a week on an Island in the Gulf Of Mexico. Its an island I have frequented with my family since I was young. I’ve been there so many times, the familiarity of it feels like home to me. I needed to go there even more than I thought I did. My life has been in pieces as of late, with the many transitions going on in my life. I’ve been longing to feel the sense of security that comes from familiarity. When I crossed the bridge onto the island, I felt as though I had found that peace you get when you walk in the front door of your home at the end of a long Friday, exhausted from a draining week of stress and strain. My friend and I spent our nights walking the beach, having long conversations about our lives, and trying to make up for the time we’d lost while being too busy back home.
One night we decided to build a fire on the beach. We had spent the whole day scouring the island for wood to burn, and digging a pit wide and deep enough to contain the fire. Once the sun had set, we gathered the wood, hauled it down to the beach, and began filling our freshly dug pit with wood and palm branches, when I happened to glance out at the ocean. My eyes were still adjusting to the intense darkness of the night. The moon had not yet risen above the horizon, and the blackness seemed endless, except for what caught my eye out at sea. I couldn’t be sure what I was seeing at first, I squinted, rubbed my eyes, and squinted harder. Was I really seeing this? I walked down to the edge of the shore, it was at this point I yelled back “hey guys…Why can I see the waves?”
I’ve spent a lot of my time just trying to stay above water, forgetting to appreciate the important things in life. It is a part of the reason I haven’t written anything lately, to which I apologize. Life has been beating me down the last couple of months. There are times when it feels as though no matter how hard I try it will never be enough. I’m sure most people would relate to that feeling these days. Its easy to get lost in the business of life, that we forget to breathe in the scent of peace, bask in the light of grace, and marvel at the beauty that is the artistic perfection around us. Activity becomes the enemy to our soul, and contentment seems an oasis creeping further and further from our reach. I long to feel connected. I need to feel as though I’m a part of a community, rooted in the things that are most important in life. I need to constantly recalibrate my mind back to what actually matters, instead of allowing myself to be consumed by the empty motions of trying to merely survive. The best way to stay centered on the important things in life is to be around people that remind you of what is important, and lately I haven’t been able to spend as much time with those people, which has perpetuated my least favorite qualities of my character and personality. Its a place no one wants to be, and is revealed at its worst when I get isolated by my circumstances, which continually pull me from everything I love and am most passionate about.
When I left for this trip to the ocean, I had no idea how much I actually needed the opportunity to completely unplug from my life, and rest in the momentary bliss of a world without schedules, deadlines, shifts, bills, money, and stress. I was given the chance to completely let go, and yet something still held on, resting on my shoulders like an anvil.
One night I couldn’t sleep, so I walked outside to get my headphones out of my car. I figured maybe some music might occupy my mind long enough for me to fall asleep. Once I reached my car, the wind hit my face, the fullness of the moon caught my eye, and I was frozen in the moment. For the first time since I had been there, I was still. It was as though someone opened the flood-gates to my soul, and I was emptied of all the heaviness I had been carrying for so long. I no longer felt the need to care about anything. I walked down the boardwalk, stood at the end, and began to pray. I asked God to show me something, give me a sense of relief. Even an ounce of brief certainty would do. I stood there as a storm rolled in from the sea. I must have stood there for at least an hour, just waiting, enjoying the wind on my face, the light mist of rain that would fall occasionally from the looming dark clouds above, and basked in the beauty of the light of the moon breaking through the clouds so radiantly that it was awe-inspiring. I walked down towards the ocean, marveling at the waves as they gained momentum and crashed into the shore with force and authority. In this moment I felt peace…finally. I accepted that feeling as enough, and decided to go back to bed.
“Hey guys…Why can I see the waves?”, I shouted, completely dumbfounded by what I was seeing. They assured me it was the light from far away, or the moon light. I argued that the moon wasn’t up yet, and there wasn’t another light for miles. “The water is glowing!” I exclaimed. They hurled jokes my direction in complete disbelief. My persistent personality overcame me and prevailed, as my logic attempted to catch up. I searched the recesses of my brain for an explanation. I remembered that I had read about something called phosphorus algae that had been known to show up on extremely rare occasions in lakes, rivers, and most rarely in the ocean. Could it be, I wondered, that this is what I’m seeing? I ran until my feet hit the water. By this time my eyes had acclimated themselves to the utter blackness of the night. I bent down, and ran my hands through the water as the waves crashed into the shore. As I cupped the water in my hands, I could see the brief glimpses of what looked like blueish glitter-like specks shimmering, and fading almost immediately. I realized that the water only seemed to glow with any type of friction, hence the water breaking. I looked out at the ocean, and just out from the shore I knew there was a sand bar. I could see the waves breaking over the sand bar a good 50 to 100 feet out. It looked as though a blue beam of light would start in one spot, and stretch across the horizon in both directions. I immediately began screaming “THE WATER IS GLOWING! HURRY!” When everyone heard the urgency in my voice, they came running down to where I was standing. As their eyes adjusted, everyone started voicing their amazement. Soon there was nothing but laughter. No one could believe their eyes. I felt the thrill of excitement in such a way that I hadn’t experienced in quite some time. It was as though God had performed a miracle right before my eyes!
As I walked back up the shore, I kicked the sand, and realized that the phosphorus algae had been washing up on the shore for some time, and when I kicked the sand, it gave a burst of blue/white light that looked as though it shattered all over the sand like glass. That’s when I realized I could see my footprints in the sand. It was as though God had shared a piece of Heaven with me in that moment. I shared my discovery with those around me, and we all began jumping and kicking the sand, creating bursts of light in the sand. It was like a scene from the movie “Avatar.” My family walked back up to where the fire was being lit, and my friend and I remained down at the water, staring out into the miracle of light that was before us. At one point, one of my parents asked if we were okay, and my friend responded “I’m fine, I just know this is one of those moments where I’m witnessing something that will only happen once in my life.” I couldn’t have said it better. We didn’t want the moment to end, so we just stood there.
I don’t know why that moment was so important to me. But it’s a memory I will cherish for a really long time. That moment reminded me, in such an emphatic way, what is truly important in this life. I get teary-eyed just reliving the memory with you now. I couldn’t remember being more overjoyed in my life. I was like a child on Christmas morning. My heart was full. I didn’t know what to do with myself.
We spent the rest of the night playing music and singing around the fire, and enjoying the beauty of the fire, the incredible starry sky above us that was unhindered by any light for miles, and the breath-taking luminous waves that burst into the shore like fireworks. In this moment, everything in the world was right. Life was perfect. And for the first time in a really long time, I was overcome beyond words, beyond thoughts, beyond emotion, and in that moment I thought “So…This is what grace feels like.”