Tracking the Current {Gift from the Sea 8: The Beach at My Back}


When we packed for the beach, we didn’t know whether to take our swimsuits or our hazmat suits. We tracked ocean currents on the web, watched the news and called Gulf Coast locals to see if we should even come. I remembered years ago how I found globs of oil stuck to my feet after walking sands along the Mediterranean at Alexandria and then later walking along the Atlantic at West Palm Beach. But this was more than an oil barge leaking a bit, this was the black tide of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The currents were moving the mass of oil toward Mississippi, Alabama, and our Florida beaches. Even the Everglades were at stake.

The explosion had already claimed the life of my friend’s cousin and his fellow workers on the rig, and the crude oil let loose in the waters was oiling bird feathers, covering pelicans in tar, poisoning sea mammals, and killing coral. My conservationist heart fired like the oil burning out at sea. I felt how “the world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.” The earth was bleeding with no styptic to be found. Eighty-seven days the oil would gush. Five million barrels. I watched more coverage and flooded over, angry, helpless.

We went for it, traveled toward disaster. We took the scenic route through southern byways. There were wells in front yards, half-naked toddlers walking barefoot over dirt-lawns, yellow ribbons on weathered posts, cotton fields picked empty, and then in all the squalor, a teenager with a laptop sitting on the porch of a shack. Was he entertaining himself to forget his poverty or was he searching out the bigger catastrophes of the world to dwarf his own, living out Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s view that “because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world”?

I thought about the various types of need I see through the window of my laptop, the child with cancer that I cry over, the pastor who is jailed in Iran, women being trafficked in my own country. I want to give my heart to these issues and more, but at times it all floods over me like the oil I watched on the screen. I have felt it that “modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.” And driving through this byway at 60 miles per hour, I felt it again, that I could not carry these burdens or lift these people up from poverty.

But somehow, with them being just yards away from me, their actual selves, not a snapshot or an avatar, their sticky air coming through my rolled down windows, I got a sense of each as an individual. In all the distressed Americana, I noted “the particular uniqueness of each member of the [human] family, the spontaneity of now; the vividness of here…..the drops that make up the stream.”

Out at sea, beyond my sight, crews skimmed oil, burned oil, placed booms around islands and coasts. It wouldn’t be enough, but it was what they knew to do. They put in elbow grease working in their own area of expertise…and alongside came a surprise something like the glitter in the Andaman Sea, hidden helpers that would eliminate some twenty to forty percent of the oil. When each member of creation does its part, acts in its own circle of influence, opens itself to the need of the moment…catastrophe shrinks.

We wound along the road and passed a country church anchored in an unkempt grove. I prayed they were doing what I couldn’t, leading these people to “some of the joy in the now, some of the peace in the here, some of the love in me and thee which go to make up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”

When we finally rolled into our destination, we got right to the beach. We looked for signs of the oil slick, but all we saw was powdery sand and emerald water. I didn’t know what the future held for the place, but we let its present beauty “expand into a golden eternity of here and now.” We ran in it, rolled in it, built with it…and threw it in the air like confetti. The “sand [slipped] softly under my feet” and I took in the beauty, yet unspoiled.

{This week’s post is based on the final chapter in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea…Chapter 8, “The Beach at My Back”. View all entries in the series here.}

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So, what’s your take? Pick one or more of the reflection questions in the comments section and enter a reply to share your thoughts. All subscribers’ comments on the weekly Gift from the Sea posts will be entered for our Gift from the Sea Giveaway that opens up next Monday!

36 thoughts on “Tracking the Current {Gift from the Sea 8: The Beach at My Back}

  1. REFLECTION QUESTION #1: This chapter helps us reflect on the overwhelming nature of being over-connected with the world. On page 116, the author wrote, “We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information spread out in public print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold.” What do you think her impression would be of our generation’s interconnectedness? How do you feel about it?

    • That’s a BIG question, Darc! Since I am not that smart, I will breakdown and respond to the latter part of that quote, “more people than our hearts can hold.” It reminds me a conversation I have had with my husband, who is going to Haiti for a short mission. We have been talking about feeling so small, so overwhelmed with the gravity of need. He is concerned about culture shock, compassion fatigue and a general understanding. We wonder why we were born into such affluence. Not to say that we are wealthy by American standards, but just to BE an American citizen, to own a house and have medicine and doctors, food and clean water makes us wealthier than most all of the world! What we came to, after reflection was that there is great purpose in compassion fatigue. We are not meant to carry the burdens of the world and HOLD them. We are meant to carry them to the feet of the Creator. We do not have sufficient strength in our own broken humanity to hold the cares of the world. That is the point! We are invited, at every turn, to apply for strength that only comes from Christ. We are reminded when we are so weighed down with the depravity, chaos, and heartache of the world to turn to the Lord. We cannot do it ourselves. We weren’t meant to and we aren’t expected to. When a mere man plays the superhero, corruption is just around the corner.

    • I understood what she meant – like Mother Teresa said, to try to do everything is to suffer violence to our own souls. Daniele Evans in her book, “Honoring the Rhythm of Rest” writes that it is pride, a superman complex that doesn’t honor the limits of humanness. Only God is infinite and can be in all places at all times, caring for all of us.

      But…. (see next post)

      • I want to choose my words carefully and it’s hard to convey my heart. With much love and no judgement, I dream of the day faith people’s beliefs = action. To be wearying ourselves WITH friends and family for kingdom work more than little league. For inviting others in our homes, more than finding the perfect meal on pinterest. To be excited about neglected getting sponsored, fostered, and adopted more than a new car or vacation. And I am talking to myself here. Saying no to the good, to say yes to the amazing.

      • Yes to both of these. I guess for me it’s a matter of responding to what God puts right in front of me, trusting Him to be my GPS for locating the needs He wants me to be involved in meeting. Just last week, right after I read these comments from you on my iPhone, I had the perfect opportunity to approach a seemingly needy person, someone that I’ve noticed for many months. I had to turn the car around to catch up with her, but that was the only bit of inconvenience and it, of course, was no match for feeling connected to what God may be doing in her life. I feel like God has made her visible to me in my regular coming and going. I don’t know what He will do with it, but I am excited to be of help if He wants and if she is willing.

  2. REFLECTION QUESTION #2: AML writes of the tendency to “simplify the many into an abstraction called the mass” seeing as “we cannot deal with the many as individuals” (117). How do you process the many needs that come across your modes of communication? How can/do you keep from getting desensitized and lumping them all together in one distant, untouchable mass?

    • I think we do what we can do each day. Just like with all aspects of life. Better to do the little bits we can some days than nothing at all. I get overloaded with laundry and other household chores. If I don’t choose to tackle it in pieces and chunks, the best I can some weeks, it feels overwhelmingly impossible to ever accomplish the monster task.

    • I do my best to embrace the relationships I encounter in the day and love them fully. I lift prayers when asked to and need to do a better job of lifting them up to God continually. While we sponsor Compassion children and want to be mindful of the world around us, I embrace where God has placed me and do my best to live fully for Him each day. Often I get overwhelmd. I can’t allow others to determine what I should be doing and who I should be investing in. That’s up to God. Requires constant connection with God.

  3. REFLECTION QUESTION #3: In our overstimulation, “the present is passed over in the race for the future; the here is neglected in favor of the there; and the individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass” (118). How can we get back to the life of the saint, the artist, the poet and sense “the spontaneity of now; the vividness of here…the basic substance of life…the individual elements that form the bigger entities like mass, future, world”? (119)

    • I think some perspective comes into play here. Proper focus in the joy of here and today, but the sights kept on the goal at hand. The sharing, reaching out, planting seeds in souls, reviving community, providing hope.

  4. REFLECTION QUESTION #4: What do you think Anne Morrow Lindbergh means here, “It may be our special function to emphasize again these neglected realities, not as a retreat from greater responsibilities but as a first real step toward a deeper understanding and solution of them”? (119-120)

    • I was struck by AML’s description of post-war Europe with how “the good past is so far away and the near past is so horrible and the future so perilous, that the present has a chance to expend into a golden eternity of here and now.” Psalm 37:3 tells us to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness,” instead of worrying about future struggles or wicked schemes. But it’s funny how many of us won’t dwell in the present moment until we are worn out by thoughts of past and future.

    • I love her reflection of her own journey and personal changes at the end. (maybe I’m jumping ahead?)… There are yet more beaches and more shells to find – that in a sense she looks at each season of life as only the beginning! Love this.

      • One thing that makes this book so attractive is just how approachable AML is in the way she writes. She doesn’t come at the reader as an authority, but rather as a peer thinking through the issues alongside other women who are struggling with the same questions. Even in this last chapter, she seems to go back to her regular life with many questions. I’ve been trying to decide whether to touch on the afterword. Think we should?

  5. It seems that the bad news in the world is spoken the loudest and travels the farthest. Right before I read this post, I read John 16. The very last verse is a very reassuring reminder from Jesus,”In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

    • I learned the word “sensational” years ago in journalism. Basically, it’s the cheap Inquirer kind. When we were in Destin, we sat down with a waiter from New Orleans at a little Cajun diner. He told us that before one of the hurricanes a few years earlier, a well known news entity was down at the beach in Destin to cover the event. The air was perfectly still. The sky was sunny and blue. They brought a huge fan and a hose and made their own little hurricane effect to bring the feel of the report to the viewer. It made me question a lot of what I see on TV. But whether or not the doom in the news is real, I’m so glad we can “be of good cheer”. Such simple, profound words.

    • To piggy-back on Barbara’s comment, the last month, in particular, I have had a few moments of blatant incredulity. Utter helplessness and outrage at the events before us. Genocide, assaults on our very American rights. It seems rationality is being replaced with an inflated arrogance and power plays. Just when I think I’ve been duped speechless, something else further stumps me. Never before did I understand the phrase in Revelation, “Even so, come Lord Jesus…” I take tremendous hope and comfort in these words. All these atrocities are still, while not caused by, are directly used to reaffirm Scripture and ultimately glorify Christ. So, while I’m baffled and outraged, I know who my Redeemer is. I know that He truly holds the world in His capable hands, though I can’t hardly wrap my mind around what transpires all around us. I am infinately grateful for His Word.

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  7. I learned the word “sensational” years ago in journalism. Basically, it’s the cheap Inquirer kind. When we were in Destin, we sat down with a waiter from New Orleans at a little Cajun diner. He told us that before one of the hurricanes a few years earlier, a well known news entity was down at the beach in Destin to cover the event. The air was perfectly still. The sky was sunny and blue. They brought a huge fan and a hose and made their own little hurricane effect to bring the feel of the report to the viewer. It made me question a lot of what I see on TV. But whether or not the doom in the news is real, I’m so glad we can “be of good cheer”. Such simple, profound words.

  8. To piggy-back on Barbara’s comment, the last month, in particular, I have had a few moments of blatant incredulity. Utter helplessness and outrage at the events before us. Genocide, assaults on our very American rights. It seems rationality is being replaced with an inflated arrogance and power plays. Just when I think I’ve been duped speechless, something else further stumps me. Never before did I understand the phrase in Revelation, “Even so, come Lord Jesus…” I take tremendous hope and comfort in these words. All these atrocities are still, while not caused by, are directly used to reaffirm Scripture and ultimately glorify Christ. So, while I’m baffled and outraged, I know who my Redeemer is. I know that He truly holds the world in His capable hands, though I can’t hardly wrap my mind around what transpires all around us. I am infinately grateful for His Word.

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