Faith: Stop looking for the beach

Rev. Shay Craig, St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Churches
Shay Craig

Several years ago, I was on a bus travelling up to a vacation spot in the mountains. In the seat next to me were two children, a boy about 11 years old and his sister who was about 9. As the awe-inspiring vista opened before us – snow capped mountains and deep ravines nestled in fog – the little girl sighed and huffed in that particular way only a 9-year-old can do. Her brother said, “What’s wrong?” She answered. “I wanted there to be sand. And an ocean. Like where we were last year, at the beach.” I looked around at the mountain goats racing up the hillside as the sun broke over the ridge and thought: Nope. No sand. No ocean. Her brother said, “That’s because these are the mountains. Stop looking for the beach.”

As we close in on a year of living with the construction of a pandemic, I am afraid it is very easy for us to become that 9-year-old girl. “I thought there would be a prom … and a graduation ceremony.” 

“What about State Fair? And Oktoberfest?”  

“I wanted to be with family for Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, weddings, etc…”

Yes, we love and miss the special aspects of our lives. Yes, it feels strange to go without them. And yes, we will appreciate them more when we can do them again. 

But for now, in the words of a wise 11-year-old boy, “stop looking for the beach.” 

We are always living in God’s abundance. The pandemic did not put a stop to it. After all, this is the God who gave us food from the sky when we were hungry, fed 5,000 people with a little bit of fish and bread, and transformed water into 900 bottles of wine at the wedding at Cana. We can be sure that God is still surrounding us with abundance, so, why can’t we see it? 

Perhaps it is because we need to shift from being disappointed by what is absent to being grateful for what is right before our eyes. Stop looking for the beach and admire the mountains.

Expectation fosters disappointment. Gratitude reveals abundance.

What are you grateful for that has emerged in the last year? Are you ZOOMing with colleagues weekly who you used to only see once a year? Do you enjoy the morning light in your kitchen, which you missed when you had to commute to work early every day? Are you closer to your pets? Have you mastered your bread recipe?

Expectation fosters disappointment. Gratitude reveals abundance.

In the Bible, when the Israelites had been following Moses through the dessert for a considerable time, they began to wish for things they had back in Egypt. “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).  When we read it now, we laugh at the Israelites: “They are homesick for the past? Don’t they know they have been set free from slavery?” They expected what had been before, and they were missing the very abundant blessing in their midst.

Expectation fosters disappointment. Gratitude reveals abundance.

Frankly, it’s a little arrogant of us to think that we know what being abundantly blessed should look like. That’s God’s call. If the abundance in our lives doesn’t meet our expectations, it’s because our expectations are earthly. God’s are divine. Look with eyes of gratitude and you may see that the abundance God has placed in your life exceeds your greatest imagining. Make a list. Keep a journal. Post joyfully on Facebook. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Begin and end your days with gratitude and I promise you, you will be able to see abundance. Thank God for the mountains. Stop looking for the beach.