Another lesson from the terns

It’s a beautiful Shabbat morning and I felt the call to spend deep time with HaShem even before our beautiful Shabbat services would start. The day is glorious! The beach is pristine. The ocean is calling.

As I arrived, I marveled again at the beautiful movement of the terns at the ocean’s edge. The tiny birds with their choreographed ballet-like steps run toward the ocean as the waves go out and scurry back as the waves return to shore. In between those times the little guys with their long beaks peck at the sand for food, then flee quickly before the next waves come back toward the sandy beach. Their days are spent running forward, running back. This repeats incessantly, running forward, running back, in fear of the waves, and yet, needing this routine for sustenance.

The terns’ interactions with the sea are quite different from those of the occasional baby crabs washed ashore. I catch sight of one’s activities as it nestles into the sand while the waves are crashing, only to peek out when it’s safe. With its popped up eyes looking all around, it then races toward the ocean as the waves recede, only to be swept ashore by the next set of waves. Once again when the waves recede I can see that this tiny creature has burrowed down during the onslaught, ready to rush toward the sea at the next break in the waves, its ultimate goal to go deeper into the ocean. Over time and with determination, the baby crab safely returns to the sea.

Such beautiful examples of HaShem meeting us where we are. Like the terns, we are often unaware, or take for granted all that our Abba is providing. He is seemingly silently providing. Just as the terns feed, then run away from the sea, we may or may not acknowledge the multitude of blessings, or worse, run away from Him, either in disregard of His greatness or just because we’re too busy to notice. At other times, like the baby crabs, we sometimes dive right in, our eyes wide open, taking in all that surrounds us, plunging forward into the mystery, ready to search further.

I was reminded of the many times I have jogged with Him looking at these same sights, feeling His closeness. Yet today I realized that even though I so often experience these countless beauties of nature, my eyes do not look out enough at the ocean and its grandeur. My eyes are often down at the sand to avoid running barefoot over a shell, not unlike the terns focus on the sand for food. My fear of cutting my foot is not unlike the terns’ fear of the ocean, both keeping us away from the greater mystery. And so I sit and dictate this Shabbat encouragement into my Voice Memos on my IPhone, on a bank of sand, looking at the ocean with its limitless vista, countless, always present, constant waves, and deep calm in the distance.

How often we look down, focus on the task at hand, feed ourselves, nurture ourselves with what is needed, but fail to look up and appreciate the bigger picture. We are all not unlike those terns each day, even I. Do we stop often enough to think about where our sustenance comes from? Do we realize that in each of those bathed-with-love waves, in each of our moments, He is feeding us in every way possible, keeping us alive not only by giving us food but by being there to remind us that He is there, constant, steady, always, awesome, life giving. No one is like Him.

I see the fishermen at the edge, the children with their pails and shovels, the sun bathers, everybody so in love with this day, and yet, how often do we look out at the sea to say, “What would this day be without you but dry dust?” The ocean’s waters are life giving. Even our bodies are 60% water. Life springs from water, mayim chayim. It is the stuff of creation.

I look at the multi-million dollar condos, all lined up boldly facing the ocean, its residents knowing these homes could be wiped out by the ocean’s fury and high winds. And yet, we are mesmerized by the beauty of the ocean. We want to experience its life giving power, willing to take known risk in order to experience such an other worldly beauty. We strive to be in harmony with nature, to view it from safe distances without fear. This is the humble, knowing fear, that gives us the recognition we will never be able to understand the mightiness, the deep mystery of the sea, the mightiness of our Abba, and yet we seek it.

The terns run in fear of this force greater than themselves that they instinctively know can take their lives. Even the crabs know when to hide. Life for them means survival, at least in these actions. Perhaps this perspective is not unlike that of those who do not know HaShem, who doubt there is God. Knowing the reality of God, of Yeshua the promised Messiah, we have been given the knowledge that our lives now are a mere glimmer of life with Him. We can accept the unknowing for we have been given a taste of His reality. The more we seek, the more we are shown. We experience countless moments of intimacy with the Divine, both here and as will be magnified beyond human understanding in olam haba, the world to come. Rather than living in fear we can live lives in awe of Him, for when we do, we experience that incredible knowing feeling that there is so much more . . .

I encourage you this week to not let fear and distraction keep you from all that is holy around you. Remember the bigger picture, to take even more moments to lift up your eyes, to Him, to experience His deep calm, His never ending waves of love, the deeper mystery of our Abba.

Shabbat shalom.


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