Few things in life are finer than a long run on the beach, especially if it’s along a flat, lonesome strand like the one that extends north of Bayshore. That’s Ellen (below) walking a segment of this beach near the Seal Rock headlands, where the two of us hung out amid the crashing surf yesterday for a while.
Running is like prayer when you’re alone under a cover of fog, the ocean is speaking to you in its native tongue, and your thoughts—without distraction—go to deep places. Edges of the earth’s crust, such as coastlines and mountain tops, are good for the soul. They open us up. The vastness of sea and sky is a healthy reminder of our limits. There are times when it’s good to see ourselves as the specks of dust that, materially speaking, we are.
I’m not alone in this thought. Harry Blamires, the Anglican theologian, has written about what he calls “the finitude of the finite.” Our 21st-century culture has failed to recognize and deal with the limits built into the human condition. “Man behaves as though he were not a dependent creature with a limited and temporary existence in a limited and temporary universe,” Blamires writes.
I see people almost daily who struggle to deal rationally with their mortality and human limitations. The reason for this fretfulness is because they’re created in the image of God with a built-in sense of eternity. They just don't (yet) get the big picture. Blamires again: “Man has a gnawing suspicion that there must be more than this life, but his secularized world view will not allow him, at least logically, to pursue this suspicion much further. As a result, the secularist lives with a non-verbalized, subconscious fear of his own finiteness.”
A bout of cancer did wonders at curing me of my pride of life. I don’t need anyone else to tell me what I know in my bones: I am mortal. Now when I’m in places of earthly beauty, I experience them more richly than before. I am a creature, both carnal and sensual. Thanks to God, that is how he created me. When I run on the beach, the scent of salt and seaweed in my nostrils elevates me, as if it were a whiff of heaven. I no longer have any doubt that this world is not the end; it is rather just the beginning. That knowledge frees me to enjoy what God gives me as never before. I live in anticipation.
As I was winding down my run yesterday it occurred to me how even if I was blind, I could run a beach like Bayshore. It has no obstacles for miles—just sand, sea and sky (not counting those gnarly rocks you see in the photo). And behind these basic elements stands a creator who is infinite, omnipresent, and timeless. His good gifts, like a simple run on the beach, I gratefully receive. They are like crumbs falling off his table of grace.