A few months ago we moved to an apartment near the waterfront in a town on Lake Ontario. The pier that juts out into the lake, daily attracts scores of people coming in their trucks and cars for no other apparent reason than to gaze at the water. It’s a strange, but universal phenomenon. And one we share. Almost daily, we amble along the shoreline.
If we could, we would probably invest in a lakefront or ocean property. However, the premium charged for properties with water frontage makes such a dream unrealistic. What is there about oceans and lakes that inspires such adulation and competition for frontage?
Perhaps it is also the sight and sound of waves endlessly lapping on a beach. From as far as our eyes can see, the waves march toward us hypnotizing us into a pleasant state of reverie. Unless they crash on the beach in a wild storm, the sound of the waves mediates a sense of tranquility. Their regular rhythm soothes our frazzled spirits in a hectic world, whispering, “All is well.”
Or perhaps we are attracted by how expanses of water reflect the infinitely varied moods of creation. One day calm and tranquility reigns. On another day gentle waves lap the shore. Then a violent storm lashes the shoreline with towering breakers. The rising sun paints the surface with astonishing colours. Evening comes and people gather at the shore for another free and unchoreographed light show from the Divine Artist. As darkness deepens the moon rises gilding the waves with silver.
Our oldest son credits the magnetism of shorelines with the views they give of distant horizons. Most of our lives are spent with the walls of buildings or trees limiting our view. But at a beach, we can gaze off to the horizon without anything impeding our vision. This somehow expands our spirits giving us a mysterious sense of wellbeing.
Perhaps it is that very mystery that intrigues us. Below the surface there is an unknown universe so we invent snorkels to see below the surface and diving suits to probe the depths of our oceans. And yet they resist all our attempts to uncover all their secrets.
Perhaps it is the human desire to conquer or at least to get to the other side. We can’t walk on water like we do on land. So we invent canoes and sailing ships to traverse this mysterious element. We teach ourselves to swim. But in spite of all our attempts to conquer expanses of water, we cannot parcel it out like we do the land. It refuses to be domesticated. We can pollute it but not conquer it.
Squalls change the temper of our lakes in a moment, sending boaters fleeing to harbour. On the ocean, tides rise and fall answering alone to the moon’s gravitational pull. Storms drive tidal surges that crush our puny attempts to limit the ocean’s reach. Cities like New York and New Orleans reel from their effect.
When we venture out of our controlled environments to visit a seashore, the distant horizon humbles us. There we come face to face with something vast and mysterious that resonates with the human heart. At the margin between land and water, we sense something almost incomprehensibly vast. Where did it come from, we muse? We slip back to Creation and feel the, often unacknowledged, presence of the infinite and all-powerful God.
The Lord God, “who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” (Is. 40:1 NKJV) invites us to bring our joys and troubles to Him. He who spoke and 322,300,000 cubic miles of water came into existence has the capacity to understand our concerns and meet our deepest needs.
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