My cousin from California recently spent a month with us in the Windy City. It was her first extended stay here, and I hoped she’d fall in love with this place I call home. But Chicago, you sure didn’t make it easy. The evening she arrived, we got almost a foot of snow. The next day we experienced record-breaking low temps, dipping to 25 below zero with wind chill. Although this charming weather pattern may be something of a novelty at first, it doesn’t make any friends when it sticks around for any extended length of time.So as soon as the thermometer registered in the double digits, we decided to take Jen into the city and show her the sights. One of our stops was Navy Pier, a 100-year-old pier that juts 3,000 feet out from the shoreline into Lake Michigan.
When we looked out onto the lake, I was reminded just how vast this body of water is. When you’re standing on the pier, all you can is water on three sides, extending far beyond what the eye can see. I try to imagine how far away Door County is, try to picture the opposite shoreline somewhere in Indiana. But each time, I fail. The magnitude of 1,000 cubic miles of water is beyond what my mind can take in.
Not only that, but it’s also hard to appreciate the beauty of something so vast. It was only when I saw that great lake contrasted against something smaller that I could appreciate its grandeur and beauty. Like when waves crashed against the shoreline. Or when the ice floes bobbed in the current. Or when a gull ducked under the icy surface to procure its lunch. Or when I saw the lighthouse sitting tall and proud on the rocky crag.
I just finished reading Lewis Smedes’s spiritual memoir, My God and I, which he finished writing shortly before his death. This book is a lovely blend of accessible theology and personal stories, at once homespun and profound, and it’s filled with little gems about everything from doubt to hope to old age. But what captivated me from the first page was a letter written to Lewis by his friend Rod Jellema about the presence of God. In part, it goes like this:
Don’t tell me how God’s mercy
is as wide as the ocean, as deep as the sea.
I already believe it, but that infinite prospect
gets further away the more we mouth it. . . .
The thin and tenuous
thread we hang by, so astonishing,
is the metaphor I need at the shoreline
of all those immeasurable oceans of love.
I can relate to this idea of looking for God in the cracks and crevices of life. My mind tends to go into overload when I try to wrap my brain around the depth and infinite nature of God. But to see God in the tenuous thread I’m hanging on to? Now that I may be able to do.
What about you?
Are there times when God seems too vast to take in?
Are there moments when his love is hard to wrap your brain and heart around?
If so, I invite you to join me on the shoreline, clinging to him amid the cracks and crevices.