It’s election day. I already voted over a week ago. So how to spend the day? I elect to spend my morning at the beach, LeCount Hollow to be more precise. It’s a foggy morning out here on the Cape. The sun is struggling to break through the cloud cover, spilling a silver sheen on the breakers. I have the beach to myself today. Not many people come out here on a breezy and overcast day, but such days are my favorites for strolling along the shore.
I never tire of inspecting the tideline. It constitutes an ever changing mosaic of multicolored seaweed, shell fragments and sea worn stones. Most shells that make it to shore here are pretty well broken up by the relentless pounding of surf and sand.
But every so often I come across one that is fully intact, like this sea snail shell.
Seagulls and seals are year round residents, as are the coyotes that roam the beach at dawn and dusk. You stand a decent chance of sighting a minke whale off shore on any given morning. Great white sharks have also been observed, but not by me.
What does any of this have to do with the election? Nothing, really, but that’s the point. Sometimes you have to withdraw from the pressing issues of the day to get some perspective on them. The great preacher and theologian, Karl Barth, once said that we need to read the Bible with the newspaper at our side. I don’t disagree with that, but if the newspaper is the only source you have in front of you to help you discern the message of the scriptures, your interpretation is likely to be skewed. The news isn’t always what we think it is. If CNN, Fox, NBC or ABC had been around two millennia ago, I doubt you would find their reporters covering the birth of a baby to a homeless couple in a barn standing in a small town at the frontier of the Roman Empire. Sometimes you have to look past the headlines to find the real news.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work,” says poet, Mary Oliver. If we are going to be fully attentive to the Spirit of God, then we need periodically to get away from the cries of urgent matters demanding our immediate attention so that we can hear the call of significant matters that require our sustained attention. We must learn to let the great historical events of the day percolate up through the matrix of those truths that are eternal, the ones we learn from listening to the voices of waves and seagulls. We must learn to discern the patterns left at the shoreline in order to make the connections required to live faithfully and well.
I don’t know what the political landscape will look like tomorrow morning. But I know that the ocean will still be there with all of its wonders. I know that the love that binds together my family, my church and which extends itself to neighbors I do not yet know will remain no matter what shape the electoral map takes. I believe that, come what may, God, who loved the world enough to send it his only beloved Son, will find a way to hold it together.