the great adventure: day 6
when i opened my eyes it was 5am. the cool morning air had me burritoed up in my sleeping bag but as comfy as i was i couldnt sleep. the nearby waves and the promise of a morning spent walking along the beach and enjoying the peace i knew it would bring drew me out of my cocoon and i walked down to the shoreline with a growing sense of giddiness.
it was going to be a very good day.
i love the beach. i was raised in a suburb of houston within a quick hour drive to galveston and i spent a good bit of time there in my younger days. i still look forward to the chances i have to spend time there because theres something about the ocean – or the gulf – that has an inexplicably positive effect on me. its as if the push and pull of the waves helps bring me into shalom.
that morning was no exception
a lazy fog pushed in over the santa ynez mountains masking the coast in a grey mist that only faded slightly as the sun peaked over the hills and as i sat on a large chunk of driftwood i gave thanks for this place.
when i began planning this trip over a year ago my primary goal was to see the ocean. it was the catalyst that drove my imagination as i dreamed of living out these moments. each time i sat down to map out destinations and possible hikes i thought of looking out over the vast pacific and what that experience would be like, and now it had become a reality.
i had reached the end of the earth.
as i sat enjoying the peaceful sounds of waves and seagulls considering how my life had brought me to this, i was startled by the voice of god. it was soft but firm, and clear as the handful of other times i have heard it. not much was said but the weight of the words made my eyes water:
i am with you. even at the end of the earth.
as much as i had planned this trip seeking to hear from god and as much as i believed i would find him in places such as this i admit i did not expect these words. with the temperature hovering just above 50° a deep warmth seized me as their weight bowed my head and my tears mixed with the mist sweeping across my face.
i know that somewhere across the ocean there are a string of islands called hawaii and that even further there is another called japan. i know that eventually the ocean shores up against mainland china. but knowledge of maps didnt change the experience of standing there looking out over a seemingly endless expanse at the end of the world where god told me he was with me.
and the warmth that covered me reminded me of my first real experience of his presence on the south rim of the chisos mountains in big bend national park so many years prior. it engulfed me completely. my skeptical doubting once again came face to face with my creator and was silenced, if only for those brief moments.
after battling a debilitating depression for years and struggling just to hold onto a shred of faith i had once again heard from god and the message was clear: i am not alone. no matter how prevalent the darkness. no matter how empty i feel when facing trials and tragedy. no matter what kind of apathy or frustration i experience.
god is with me.
to be clear, my doubts and depression havent disappeared. my angst and frustrations are resilient and i still experience days where i just want to walk away from everything and not look back. but that one sentence breathed into my mind and heart lifted my chin and gave me resolve to hold onto faith and keep trusting that god is full of mercy and grace and that the world i long for is not imaginary.
and as i thought about this i remembered a bit of scripture from revelation 21. john describes what he sees and then records a declaration from jesus inaugurating the new heavens and earth:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
so what about the tragedies in my life? the loss and mourning? the broken relationships? the anger and pain? the loneliness and depression? the doubts and hopelessness? and beyond me, what of all the tragedies in the world? starving children? betrayal and abandonment? rape and murder? destruction and war? what of these? what becomes of the darkness that is so prevalent?
he is making all things new.
even if it takes a while.
theres a passage in the lord of the rings: the return of the king that takes place after the dark lord sauron has been defeated and the war of the ring has ended where samwise awakens to find himself and his companions alive and well; even the wizard gandalf whome he believed dead at the hands of the balrog. he sits up and ponders aloud:
Is everything sad going to come untrue?
this has been my longing for quite some time. since i became aware of the new heavens and earth idea in scripture i have yearned for that day and standing at the edge of the world where i felt gods presence and heard his reassurance, i was renewed.
and everything sad in my life began to come untrue.
we had to be in fresno by evening to pick up jase from the airport so we packed up and cleaned up in our campgrounds amazing shower facility. it was so good to be clean again after a couple days and the feeling bolstered my sense of renewal.
before heading up to fresno we decided to go check out the stearns wharf pier in santa barbara and maybe get some souvenirs. brian met an interesting pelican and i got into a fight with moby dick which was basically a draw.
we picked up some shirts for our respective fams and hit the pch again heading north through san luis obispo to atascadero where we turned northeast on highway 41 and made our way through the golden hills to the valley. along the way there were vineyards and farms of all sorts lining the road. it was an interesting change from the temperate coastal area.
we made good time and arrived in fresno early enough to have a good supper before heading to the airport. i had already arranged to meet up with my friend dave wainscott, and we enjoyed some pretty decent mediterranean food just off the campus of fresno pacific university where he is a professor of biblical studies.
i have known dave for several years but had never met him personally and it was a great experience. hes such a cool guy and hes not paying me to say any of this. seriously. anyway – we talked about nerdy stuff and a bit about church planting and what it looks like to incarnate the gospel contextually. as always i was inspired by our conversation and look forward to seeing how our friendship continues to develop.
having checked into our free hotel courtesy of a bad experience with hotels.com on day 4 we headed over to the airport and picked up jase who was joining us for the second leg of our journey. i was sorry he had missed the first several days but excited to have him for the days that were ahead.
as we rearranged our packs for the following couple days in the wild we caught up on each others lives, and with the promise of yosemite we turned in for the night, looking forward to the rest of the trip and all that lay ahead.
my prayer that night was simple and full of thanksgiving; gods words from that morning still resounding in my mind and heart. he had spoken to me at the end of the earth and sent me further into the wilderness but i was not alone and the company of my brothers was in some way an extension of his presence.
it felt like the adventure was only just beginning.