yet they are constant. They will exist, forming the shoreline,
much in the same way that God forms and shapes us throughout
the times of our lives. Waves are relentless—they just keep
coming—which reminds us of the way God keeps surrounding us
with love, even when we resist.
Sometimes we think
God hits us with more than we can handle, but as the shore is
resilient, so are we. How many times have we fought the tide,
literally tried to swim against it, only to find that when we
give in, it’s a much smoother ride? We know how powerful the
water can be, especially when we’re in it.
We want to be
in charge and go in a certain direction. Fighting the undertow
or waves is only a waste of energy. The water is actually more
help when we give in and let it lead. We’ve got to let go and
let God take us where he wants us to be. Often, it’s a much
more interesting place, especially since God knows better what’s
good for us.
As the surf represents
God’s presence, the water itself is his love. It is calm underneath
at all times even if the surface is stormy. Life will continue
to go on steadily and God will always be there if we know where
Even in the deepest
parts of the ocean where it is darker than night, there is life.
Where we think there is blackness and death, we are actually
surrounded by God’s love. We’re not alone.
Shells are God’s
gifts to us, treasures to find and share with others. Shells
can represent our unique God-given talents and gifts.
so small yet plentiful on most beaches, bring us joy in their
varied colors and delicacy. It’s as though we can’t have too
many, despite their abundance. Some of our talents may look
much like those others possess, but we each have our own shading,
shape and size. Our talents, however plentiful, deserve to be
held up, delighted in and treasured—just as we do on the beach.
Conch shells are
rarely found intact on most beaches. We’re more likely to buy
them at an oceanfront souvenir shop. To find one requires deep
water and diving skills. Going out into deep water is necessary
for finding some personal, hidden talents as well. It feels
risky to express our individuality sometimes.
But a conch holds
the sound of the ocean, the rush of God’s breath, inside. Some
talents are like that: rare, beautiful, hard to find, challenging
to express, but well worth the risk of diving inward and revealing
The rocks along
the shore can hurt our feet but eventually make the soles of
our feet stronger, more able to endure. Such are the tests in
our lives that God knows we can get through.
The first day
on the beach we hesitate to go barefoot. We protect ourselves.
But to experience fully the ocean of life, we have to take off
our shoes and leave a mark on the sand, even though the rocks
leave their mark on us as well.
The dunes that
protect the shore are like family and friends protecting us
from wearing down in the elements. Many beachfront properties
have had to rebuild dunes mistakenly obliterated by developers.
We need cushions
from the power of ocean winds and tides. We can’t bulldoze our
way ahead, without concern for the people around us. We need
them—and we are dunes for them as well.
Too often, we
want to be in charge of the journey and we fight God’s guidance.
When our family goes to the beach, we usually pack for the duration
with coolers, umbrellas, chairs, sunscreen, refreshments, towels
and books to read.
But we’ve found
that all this gear can be a burden—to pack, to haul, to set
up and to guard. Sometimes, the less you bring the more you
enjoy. That’s how it is when you are open and welcoming to God
and God’s inspiration in your life. You can get along without
so much stuff. You can be free.
The sun at the
beach can be very hot and can burn us if we’re not careful.
God is in the cool breeze and refreshing spray of water. We
need the cool respite to survive on the beach.
We also need to
be alert to God’s whisper in the breeze within our lives, sometimes
so full of turmoil and pain. Sometimes we have to turn just
so, to catch the breeze. We need to pay attention, to seek out
what will cool and refresh us.
As much as we’ve
learned about God’s very personal relationship with us at the
beach, we’ve also learned to share that space. Other people
with their radios, blankets and beach balls can crowd in on
our carefully marked-out turf.
jealous and selfish of the attention and blessings and gifts
God gives to other people. But God is infinite. There’s plenty
to go around. The immensity of the ocean and the expanse of
the shoreline manifest abundance, not limits or borders.
as well. Not every shoreline has a lighthouse, but those that
do are beacons for anyone who is at sea.
God is a beacon
in our lives, the steady light that always comes around again.
When God’s light is not on us, it’s no doubt on other people.
Sometimes we forget
that there are others who need God’s help more than we do. When
that happens, we’ve got to be patient and generous.
Maybe we can say
a prayer for those people who are receiving the lighthouse beacon
when it’s not on us. It’s a good time to remember that we’re
in the light often enough to be guided toward our destination.
The ocean is full
of power and majesty, as is God in the divine, infinite wisdom.
Enjoy the view.
Remember the metaphors. Delight in the ocean, God’s pulsating
and abundant fullness.
Bellitto is an assistant professor of Church history at the
Institute of Religious Studies and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie,
New York. He is the author of Lost
and Found Catholics: Voices of Vatican II, published
by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Karen Bellitto, C.S.W., his
wife, is a social worker at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. She
and her husband contributed their perspective on the October
1995 papal visit to New York in the December 1995 issue of St.