“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.” This lyric from the song, “I Hope You Dance” by Leanne Womack popped into my head on a recent trip to Florida as I stood on the beach taking in the vastness of the ocean while feeling the sand under my toes and the gentle breeze against my face.
It’s crazy to me how one silly song lyric can spark a rabbit trail of thoughts and even crazier that it warrants writing an entire blog post about but sometimes things are just so good you have to share them.
This wasn’t my first experience standing on a beach nor was it the first time I experienced these particular feelings. I’ve had many encounters just like this one over the years, some at the beach but not always. Regardless of the specific location the feeling is always the same. A sense of “smallness.” Not small in an insignificant or demeaning way, but rather small in a there’s something bigger than myself out there kinda way. It’s the type of feeling that leaves you feeling centered and knowing there’s a place for you in this world. It’s restoring, refreshing and balancing.
I know I am not the only one who has had this type of experience standing by the ocean or experiencing the awe and beauty of nature, whether in the mountains or on a tropical island. I have heard people describe their experiences differently but they all have one common theme, it’s the empowering feeling of “small”. People everywhere experience the breathtaking awe, beauty, and sense of smallness that I experienced that day but not everyone chalks it up to the same thing. This is where the rabbit trail gets interesting.
As a christian whose worldview includes God as creator It seems only natural to credit my beach experience and every other interaction with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature as encounters with God. Scripture reflects this truth in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Romans 1:18-20 gives us a deeper understanding that God speaks through His creation and that we as human beings are without excuse, that we are accountable for that which has been revealed to us and God is revealing Himself to us daily through His creation.
So often I hear people speak about similar experiences to mine but their reasoning as to why they had these experiences is anything but God. For some it’s as though God isn’t even one of the options. I took a math test once as part of a job interview and no matter how many times I worked and reworked this specific problem I kept getting the same answer and my answer was not one of the multiple choice options. When I let the guy interviewing me know he verified that the answer sheet in fact had a typo and that no one had ever pointed that out before. I wonder how many who had taken this test prior to me got that question wrong because they either didn’t answer the question or they took a guess at it. I’m sure somewhere along the way someone had to have taken a stab at it and guessed B. So it was a good thing the passing score allowed you to miss more than one question.
Humanity has been given a very special gift, the gift of free will. In the garden God gave Adam and Eve direction while at the same time allowing them the freedom to make their own choices. Adam and Eve encountered God daily while experiencing life and God honored His gift of free will even when their choices did not line up with what He wanted for them. Just like Adam and Eve we too encounter God daily while experiencing life and God honors His gift of free will even when our choices are not what He would want for us. So, in conclusion I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean but more than that I hope it’s God that is your answer.