“No matter how many
pictures I take, I can
never catch the ocean,” I
said on a recent spiritual
retreat weekend held in
Ocean City, NJ. “That is
true,” said the woman I
was walking with, a
longtime friend. “But you are still going to try!” I agreed with a rueful smile that I was. And I did. The picture above is one of my shots.
It was the same on the Great Lakes Cruise I took on my sabbatical - so many gorgeous sunsets, spectacular scenery and even a few sunrises I managed to get up for. I tried to capture them all. And while I have many wonderful photos, they all were but a moment of the larger picture I could never totally bring to life with my camera. It is hard to capture creation. But we keep trying.
Why? Well, I think because it speaks to us, to our souls in a way we want to sustain us. To bring us closer to something we cannot quite put our finger on. It reminds us of the bigger picture. The beauty of creation is a balm to our hearts and reminder of the wonder of God in troubled times. When I looked on Niagara Falls, wondered at the wild beauty of Mackinac Island, the ever-changing blues of Lake Huron, or the vastness of the night sky from the darkness of the bow of the boat, it reminded me of this. It was calming, comforting and exhilarating all at once. I didn’t need to capture the whole picture to know how wonderful it was.
It is that way sometimes with being able to view God’s presence with us. No matter how hard we try we cannot see the complete picture of God at work in our lives and our world. We see glimpses of grace, we look back and see God’s presence in this situation or that, but like trying to see the night sky all at once we can’t. It can be frustrating, especially in a world that wants more and more proof and less mystery, less Holy Spirit, less grace. We want this, and yet know that we will never be able to see it with our eyes. We must see it with the eyes of our hearts. Which means we must tune our heart to see that way by jettisoning the voices of the world that tell us we will never be able to do so.
It is a paradox and a challenge – to see and not have to have the evidence in front of our faces. To know that it does not matter if we cannot hold it in our hands. To embrace mystery and spirit and presence and say that is enough. Like trying to pin down a wave, hold starlight, or count the greens in the forest – God is with us, around us, lifting us and walking with us. Picture that.