A Walk on the Beach, or…The Sandy Psalm
“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” Psalm 32:1
It’s summertime, which means it’s beach time. Actually, anytime can be beach time since it’s as much a state of mind as it is a state of destination. As is true for dehydrated foods, so it is true for dehydrated souls; if you need to be refreshed…just add water! I love to go to the beach, but for me it is far more of a spiritual retreat than a “fun in the sun” vacation. There’s something about the vastness of the ocean that reminds me, again, of the enormity of God. There’s something about the depth of the waters that causes me to contemplate the unfathomable nature of God. There’s something about the realization that many things lie under the surface of the water, things unseen but definitely present, that reminds me there are aspects of God that I accept by faith and not by sight. And then there is the shoreline; the sand…and the waves…and their feel….and their sound. Yes, a walk on the beach is like a walk through God’s closet; it’s personal, it’s crammed with His belongings, it contains things that reveal His personality and taste, it contains items that are custom made, and everything bears His scent.
Sometimes my get-a-ways aren’t physically possible, but thankfully the mental train is always accessible and ready for boarding. So today, as I read through Psalm 32, I took a walk on the beach. The first two verses are the ones that led me to the water’s edge as I read the following:
“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity.”
As I read these verses, I thought I’d do a quick word study on the three seemingly synonymous words of transgression, sin, and iniquity. Then, while the shovel was out, I dug up the Hebrew meanings of forgiven, covered, and impute. That’s when the footprints emerged and, just as quickly, were filled. I was at the beach and the waves were washing over my feet.
In the verses written above, transgressions are forgiven, sins are covered, and iniquities are not imputed. As I sought out the original Hebrew meaning for these words, I learned that transgressions are rebellions, sins are offenses, and iniquities are deliberate acts of evil. With each word, the intensity of the deed increased. Then, when looking up the “filling” for each of these wrongdoings, I discovered forgiven means to take away, covered means to fill up the hollows, and impute means to devise. Just as footprints in the sand are quickly covered by the incoming waves, so too are each of these wrongs completely filled by the waters of God’s love. Where the imprints of rebellion are evident, God’s mercy carries them away; where the hollows of offenses are revealed, God’s grace fills them in; and where the tracks of evil are etched, God’s redemption does not allow them to remain.
How wonderful it is to know that our lives can become as smooth as the shoreline when we allow God’s waves to wash over us. While we can move away from the water’s edge and leave behind all kinds of evidence of our time at the beach, it is absolutely impossible to walk along the water’s edge and override the gentle push/pull power of the waves. Even the mechanics of waves reflect their Engineer. The crest of the wave gradually overtakes the trough of the wave and, when the bottom of the wave hits the bottom of the shore, it “crashes” upon the sand. This process not only deposits things onto the shore (fish, shells, seaweed, boogie boards…with and without riders), but it also pulls things from the shore (crabs, sandcastles, footprints…with and without the feet that left them). Within each wave we see a reflection of the God who designed it: grace, like the crest, brings abundance from God’s hand and mercy, like the trough, pulls back that which needs to be submerged…perhaps even buried on the ocean’s floor…and we are left with a smooth shoreline.
The one necessary element, however, is that one must walk where the water meets the sand. If we want to keep our sandy surface smooth but don’t want to live close to the ocean, then we’ll find that those imprints of transgression, the hollows of sin, and the tracks of iniquity are never washed away. The individual footprints may become undetectable as more and more are placed over them, but they are never smoothed over, never washed away, never filled in. Only one’s proximity to the ocean can bring the desired effect of a smooth shoreline. And, when the waters have washed over the sand, not only is the surface renewed, but it also strengthened. Dry sand is difficult to walk in; wet sand is much more traversable. Not only do the waves fill in our gaps and carry away our clutter, but they also make our lives more navigable, and not just for us but for others as well. With whom would you rather journey, one whose life has been washed over by the waves of mercy and grace or one whose life knows no watering except that which comes from his own hose?
Today, I went to the beach. Today, I allowed God’s waves of grace and mercy to wash over my feet. Today, I sank my toes in the sands of His forgiveness as I let the waters of His truth carry away my transgressions, fill up the hollows of my sins, and discard the shells of my iniquities. The trip was not nearly as long as I would have liked, nor was there any fresh seafood, but the packing and unpacking process was easy and there isn’t a mountainous pile of laundry to do…well, at least not as the result of a lengthy vacation! Maybe if I sprinkle sand over my pile of dirty clothes I will get the feel of having been to the beach…