We decide to go on an adventure. We’ve all just had dinner, crunched the last bits of ice cream cones, begin to put the little ones down for bed. The night is still new, if dark, and the beach is mere miles away. The wind tugs at us to come, dance with it.
We older ones pile into the car, three teens—my brothers and I—and our twenty-year-old cousin. When we arrive at the beach, the last family is packing up. At first I want to bring my camera, haven’t gotten shots of the beach at all this vacation, but I soon realize it’s too dark, mist obscuring moon and stars.
I grab the keys and run it back to the car. When I get back to the edge of the beach, the dunes parting around me like my own Red Sea, the others are far, far down. All I can see of them are tiny black shapes moving into the mist. I run down the boardwalk, past the dunes, and halt when my feet hit the soft sand. The others are farther away still, and I suck in a deep, cool breath that tastes like tears of freedom.
The world around me suddenly feels alien, and each step forward is like coming home.
Fog hangs over everything. It sweeps all the vast shore into its embrace. I see it draped all around me, cloaking the sky, the sand, the sea, and yet the space unfolding in front of me feels open and wide. Up on the dunes, far away on each side, sit the houses, delicate doll toys against this great gray darkness. Their lights pierce the cover, blurred and bright and distant. They seem to be in a different world than me, mere trappings on the wall of this breathless reality.
Infinitely soft beneath my feet, the sand surrounds me, colorless and countless. I can feel it changing as I walk, becoming wetter, firmer, telling me the tale of the tides. The tides—the ocean—I cannot see it. I stare out ahead of me, and I know it is there, but all I can see in this thick mist is gray smears and fuzzy droplets of muted silver. The figures of my family dance in the darkness ahead.
It all comes crashing down on me, the incredible vastness of the world, as the sky falls upon us, around us, encircles the hugeness of the shore and the sea in its even huger arms. The houses on the dunes are nothing before this grandeur. We marvel at bright flowers and sunny islands and blue skies but this—this gray expanse that swallows up everything, this gossamer veil thick enough to shutter stars but thin enough to dance like rain in faint rays of light—this is beauty. It is wild and mysterious and you lose yourself in it, and in the losing you find yourself. This is belonging.
This is love.
I feel tears at the back of my throat, because here in the darkness, in the vastness, I feel so small and I feel so loved.
Because these past few days have been so hard, and I have fallen so much, and then this gift, this divine drama that sings on the breeze, I love you.
“You are so good,” I whisper. “You are Name above all Names and King above all Kings.” I can’t even find the words, so I let snatches of verses fall into the wind and be carried away, whatever He brings to my mind.
Sometimes I struggle with the idea of worship. What even is it? How do I do it? But now it is easy, and I know what it is.
I am nearing the others now, the grays taking on different shades, and as my feet press into the wet sand and leave a trail of glory behind me, I whisper over and over, “Thank You.”
Thank You thank You thank You.
Then I’m at the edge of the sea. It springs up on you, all of a sudden lapping at your feet, and the pounding of the waves fades into the muffling cloak of mist. It is the same color of the sky above, as all the whispering air around, and you realize that you could just walk out into it and lose yourself.
But you’re not afraid. You are in His hand, and you cannot be lost. Even the sea in all its strength cannot obliterate you.
Still, the waves rolling up at me out of nowhere, the line of faint foam appearing without warning is slightly unnerving, so I stick to the edge. Dark clumps hover in the shallow water around my feet—seaweed. I notice small flashes of light scattered among it, like water-bound fireflies. Our cousin turns on her phone’s flashlight, and we discover that they are jellyfish. We pick them up, small, clear, harmless things. We watch as their transparent bodies suddenly sizzle with electric blue light. Here we humans are, thinking ourselves so clever for figuring out electricity when God has been working magic with it for millennia.
As we walk back, water still coats lower areas, like a silver smear on the gray ground. It is not like a bright moon path, just a vague image glinting dully ahead, fading away when you reach it like a desert mirage. Your feet hit water, the sand rippled with the pattern of waves, and then you emerge from it onto dry ground, and the whole world is wild and eerie and unfathomable.
I think of one of my favorite authors and his characters who dance with the mist, and I wonder if he ever had a night like this. I can see it now, more clearly than I ever have, how those characters must feel. I can see how they could become one with the mist. I can feel it, how it draws you in and makes you part of it, and how you do not lose yourself but become part of something bigger and wilder and more beautiful.
As we start toward the car, I don’t want it to end. We reach the firm, cool sand, and I hang back from the others and pray for one more perfect moment. Then I do a perfect cartwheel. And a perfect roundoff. My feet sink into the sand with a pleasant thump, and the sand clings lightly to my hands. I dust them off, feel my soul dancing—thank You—and join the others.
We try to get the sand off our feet, climb into the car, and head back home. This venture into the mist was an adventure, a gift. But isn’t it always that? Isn’t it always an adventure when you know the God who hurls waves onto shore and covers the stars with clouds? Isn’t always a gift when you get to breathe and feel wind on your face and speak directly with the God Beyond All Time?