God on the rocks

I’m on the beach. It could be almost any beach, for my quest is a common one. 

I’m hunting for special rocks for my wife’s collection. As I noted in Tips for Meaningful Business Travel, she has a large jar of smooth rocks on which she writes abbreviated praises and mini memorials to God’s faithfulness in issues both large and small.

Whenever I visit a new beach anywhere in the world, I try to gather a new specimen or two for her collection. 

On this day, I’m on the Washington coast a few hours from home. Looking for these candidates of stone provides me with both a quest and an excuse. The quest is for the perfect stone. The excuse is to justify meandering down the beach as if I require some reason to be there other than just to be there.

Because my family awaits me today, I hurry my perusal of washed-up stones. And in the hurry, I notice something I’ve not realized before.

Let me step back first and explain this: A big part of why I travel is to experience God in a new way, to be surprised to the point of wonder and discover some new revelation about him or his creation. Unlike at home where I tend to restrict God to familiar categories, on a trip God shows up in ways that make me realize the very idea of categories for God is about as adequate as using shot glasses to hold the ocean.

Yet even on trips, I tend to go about looking for God in rather familiar ways using tried and true techniques. Much like how I normally look for rocks on the beach.

But today, because I’m both seeking interesting stones and walking rapidly at the same time (somewhat a challenge for males like me), I discover an interesting phenomenon.

As I walk and look, a bright rock or interesting shape catches my eye. I pause and stare, trying to identify the outlier. Rarely, however, do I find what I thought I was seeking. Instead, whatever caught my eye is now lost amidst a hundred other stony neighbors.

The very act of stopping and noting, however, reveals a rock – usually a foot or so away from my initial point of inspection. And this new find, the one I hadn’t gone looking for but found serendipitously, is the keeper.

So it is with travel and how we “find” the One who actually is seeking us all along. God rarely shows up where I’m looking for him but reveals himself in that sidelong glimpse or peripheral glance, that spot just over there, close by but requiring some effort to reach.

When we find him in these unexpected places, like children we are thrilled by the hide-and-seek nature of the discovery and we know in ways we can’t express that we are the ones who are found.

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