My husband and I pack the cooler and pile the kids in the car for our traditional summer road-trip. We make our way from Texas to California. We anticipate visiting beloved family and daydream about frolicking on the beach in the sun and sand. This summer our teenage daughter makes a bucket list of beaches she suggests we see on our unrepeatable trip of the year. I set out to apply my mothering strategies so as to live life to the fullest. We make our best attempt to find a different beach each day for seven days straight.
The sunny, gentle breezes provide juxtaposition from the triple-digit mountainous desert temperatures we endured, and the numerous potty stops it took to get to southern California. The loud, crashing waves and the expansive coastline vistas infuse our senses with the golden highlights we seek. We alight the Thousand-Steps Beach mid-week and it’s then that I break into my theological references loud and strong. I discuss the love of God with my daughter, of how it outnumbers the sand. I am caught in the romance of this beautiful countless concept. I dance a bit like a child in dappled light of palm trees and see it with a lucid clarity.
That same day we make our way back to Auntie’s house as evening closes in. The little boys and teens squabble loud, gritty and exhausted. Now I am weary with frustration. I can’t help the irritation brim as I notice the prolific amount of sand that has made its way into the floorboards of our minivan. Arriving back to fight for the “first shower” in an already abundant house, I cajole little boys to scrub well, closely peering at scalps lined thick with sand. Swimsuits hide spoons full of grit and granules. I recall last year – how weeks after our trip, I had found hidden crevices of sand still in pursuit in random compartments of my favorite tote bag.
I begin to think of how God is always with me, with my little domestic church. I unpack the gritty realization a bit. His thoughts of love go with me even when the golden light fades, like a pursuing of goodness and mercy. This real-life, gritty kind of love is what holds it all together in the squabbling messes, in the black night of my struggles and fears. I think how I am really just beginning to understand. The longer I journey with him, the more I am a witness to the reality of his loving thoughts being more far-reaching than I could capture in just the golden moments.
I am not the first to wonder at the vastness of this encompassing love. The Old Testament saints speak of the greatness of God in metaphor:
- Moses speaks of the blessing God longs to give his people: “For they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand” (Deuteronomy 33:19).
- Jeremiah, the prophet, recounts: “God gave “wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore” (1 Kings 4:29).
- The book of Job speaks of the length of days in comparison to the sand: “… multiply my days as the sand” (Job 29:18).
- Jeremiah explains the eternal power of God in our lives: “Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble in my presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it” (Jeremiah 5:22).
- King David knew after all his soul-searching; “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17-18).
The words of Sacred Scripture breathe encompassing life. Will you and I open our hearts to the pursuit of his love? Across the varying terrain? In the golden light? In the dark of night? Let his love deepen in a vast pursuit of our hearts.