I always have good intentions of getting lots done when I come to our beach house on Topsail Island. I arrive with notebook to write in, books and magazines to read and a determination to set goals for the next several years of my life. I’ve been here almost a week now and the notebook remains untouched, the books and magazines unread and my future as unpredictable as the day I arrived. It’s because I become so captivated by the spell of the island, entranced by the rhythm of the sea and enchanted by nature’s rhythmic cycle. I notice how empty and exposed the beach becomes on an outgoing tide and how when the sea returns, it brings forth new life. And I realize that, just like the beach, I too need to be emptied and freed before becoming filled with new life. Only once I can relax and be freed from the stress of everyday life can I find the peace and confidence to fill myself anew. But like the tide, I must take my time for I have become as one with nature.
I stroll on the beach for my morning walk. It’s March and I still feel a chill through my warm sweatshirt as I walk along the edge of the gently lapping waves. It’s a time of solitude, a time of peace, a time to unwind….just me and the sand and the sea. There are sandpipers too and like them, I follow the shallow rolling waves as they break and recede, looking expectantly for any treasures the waves may leave behind on the smooth glistening sand.
My attention is averted by a procession of beautiful pelicans that are further out to sea searching for a tasty morsel for breakfast. A wave breaks nearby and I watch as the white translucent foam rushes towards me. As it recedes I look down and lying at my feet is a perfect “Double-Sunrise Shell”. In awe I reach down and gently pick it up. It is so incredibly fragile and I wonder how it could have survived the turbulence of the waves? Both halves are exactly matched and look like the exquisite wings of a butterfly that are bound together by a fragile silver hinge. They are marked with identical patterns of rosy ray fans, which seem to glow in the soft morning light. I accept it as being a simple gift from God delivered by the sea, freely given, nothing required, and nothing expected.
I begin to wonder whether there is a message in this wonderful creation of nature being washed up at my feet. I hold God’s beautiful creation in my hand and marvel at how the two halves of the shell are bound together by a fragile thread to create a whole. It could be our relationship with God, our spouse, a child, a sibling or a friend. It is so lovely, yet so fragile and so easily damaged. It reminds me of two hearts bound as one with a silver thread of love. Both hearts have a commonality of thoughts, interests and goals, which together in unity becomes an unstoppable force. There is a safe haven between them, a world where others are drawn and are welcome to come and bask in the warmth and beauty of their loving relationship.
But all too quickly the relationship becomes weighed down with the accumulated turbulence of life and time. Responsibilities, complications and unmet expectations begin to take their toll on the fragile structure…just as the waves on this delicate shell. This is especially true of marriage, being the closest yet potentially most difficult to maintain of all human relationships. Perhaps in order to survive, such relationships need to take on different forms…just as nature does with her changing seasons of life. We stress and struggle trying to maintain a relationships initial form, failing to realize that like nature change and transformation are an inevitable process of life.
A double sunrise is a beautiful, exquisite creation; but can it retain its original beauty and luster forever in the guise of such an all-absorbing human relationship? As we grow and mature, we naturally need more freedom and space in order to express our creativity and individuality. This shouldn’t be seen as threatening to the relationship in any way. For can one actually find ones self in someone else? I think not. I believe that true identity is found, as Eckhart once said, by “going into one’s own ground and knowing oneself”. This entails times of solitude and soul searching. To truly know oneself, one must also get know his creator. Paradoxically, Jesus tells us through Matt 10:39…………..“He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it”.
So the message of what I hold in my hand, this exquisite double sunrise, will never be lost; but I look upon it as a beginning and not an end. The core of the reality is that all living relationships, like nature, are in the process of change and expansion and must inevitably take on new forms. We must learn to accept this with grace.