One of the highlights of Focus 2012 was the early morning walks along the beach and I do mean early! Joanne and I had not taken into account the impact that exciting family worship, wonderful children’s work and the transparency of the glamped up tents would have on Emilia’s sleep patterns. Instead of sleeping from seven in the evening to seven in the morning she slept from nine to five for most of the week. That’s a loss of four hours sleep every night! After the first early morning which didn’t go well for Joanne who is most definitely a night owl, I took on the responsibility to get her up, dressed and out of the tent without disturbing the neighbours and their sleeping children.
We usually ended up on the beach and there we met the Lord. Thanks to Nicky’s prayers the jet stream had moved north so the weather was amazing! The sun glinted off the rolling waves that lapped at the beach. At that time we had the beach to ourselves. These early morning walks became the highlight of Focus for me as I was free to pray and seek God in a way that was difficult to do anywhere else.
I reflected with Joanne that a beach in Shadwell would do wonders for my spiritual life. “Or a mountaintop” said Joanne in response. I thought for a moment and realised that, for me, the coastline connects me with God in a way the mountaintop does not.
The mountaintop speaks of God’s mightiness and transcendence. His awesome, otherness, if you like. You go to a mountaintop to get away from things, to retreat into the breath taking beauty of the snow capped peaks. It is by definition, a moment.
The beach on the other hand speaks of something more intimate. I was reminded of some precious times one summer in Guernsey when I wedged myself into a cleft in the rock with a copy of Brueggemann, the bible and a piece of carrot cake, and God passed by. The beach is a great place for a conversation, a place to walk and talk. The beach is a place of movement and change, a thin place, where it is possible to connect with God in a way that doesn’t take you out of things. The beach is a journey rather than a destination. You climb a mountain and reach the summit. You walk along a beach and when you come to the end, you simply turn around and walk back.
Now I am back in East London, I wonder where I will connect with God in a similar way. I doubt it will be the Highway, currently part of the Olympic Route Network! Though it is a place of movement and journey, the pace and intensity is completely different. The river, on the other hand might be the place I’m looking for. That place where you suddenly notice God has joined you as you stroll along in the ordinary moments of life.