Whale Bones and Glimpses of God

30 Apr

photo-20by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Yesterday, for their last day in California, we took some friends to one of our favorite breakfast on the beach spots- Crystal Cove. As we perused the gift shop, a cashier announced that whale bones had washed up on the shore a little ways down the beach. I felt a surge of expectancy and excitement as I briskly walked beside crashing waves, into the misty, grey morning horizon.

Recently, I have felt a special connection with whales. Several times now we have had an opportunity to go whale watching from Dana Point. I have fallen in love with their hidden life that must always surface in rhythmic breaths. It is not IF they come up, but WHEN, and will I be attentive enough to notice? As the boat makes its way further into ocean vastness, I stand at the edge and peer into the depths with longing and hope. I strain to see the massive body emerge and maybe even arch its back before a deeper dive. And I love searching TOGETHER.

In those moments, we are all gathered for a common purpose- complete strangers gazing into the deep searching for signs. Right below us is a world so vast that we cannot even begin to comprehend it. We ache for just a glimpse of the mystery. Each time we go looking for whales, we learn more about them. We discover migratory and breathing patterns, context and other creaturely interactions. We hone in our seeing, mimicking our captain who leads his eager disciples out to sea everyday, knowing where to look and how, even though nothing is ever guaranteed. This is what a faith community does too. We search for God together, catching glimpses of the mystery and pointing out signs along the way. As we grow in our searching, our attentiveness is sharpened. We begin to notice patterns in our faith, though nothing is guaranteed with the God of surprises!

The more whales I see, the more passionate I become about their well-being. The more I know of them, the deeper my investment in their welfare becomes. There must be a spiritual lesson there too.

This is why what I happened upon on the beach yesterday caused me to tremble in delight, even as I was deeply saddened by the death of this massive mammal. Before me was not just fragments of bones, but an entire intact whale skeleton laid bare on the shoreline for all to examine, inspect, and honor in awe. It felt like something of the unknown was right before my eyes. We stood there together, friends and strangers, slightly disgusted by the rotting carcass aroma, and totally captivated by this completely unexpected appearance.

As we made our way down the beach, we shared with everyone we came across- Go and see! 

Sometimes I see the world around me this way too. I catch glimpses of the mystery and love of God that surprise and delight me. I want to share them with you, with everyone. I want us to keep searching together, eyes strained in wonder, ready and expectant for anything of God to emerge from the deep.

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