Our blog picture captures an immense cloudless sky reflecting down on calm lake waters below. That was our vista stretching for miles on a day at the beach. My husband and I made a trip with a friend and her two young adult children to Mentor Headlands State Park, a well-maintained beach and picnic area on the Ohio shores of Lake Erie. We relished the clear day, the mild lake breeze, and the air temperature in the mid-80s. The water temperature was much colder because there were few hot days to warm up the lake by mid-June.
We piled out of the car and grabbed our towels and belongings. Just beyond the parking lot and past the concession stand was a blue mesh walkway fastened into the sandy ground by stakes. It paved the way for beachgoers to access the water more easily without trudging through sand, spanning the beach like a runway. Following that sightline and looking up, we could barely discern where the water ended, and the blue sky began. The horizon between the lake and sky was seamless.
Donning our sunhats and sunglasses, we went down to the water wearing flip-flop sandals. Barry watched as the rest of us waded into the water calf deep. We squealed as the chilly waves broke over us. Twice, the incessant waves snatched flip-flops from our toes, sending us scrambling in the sinking sand to rescue them. The ebb and flow of the water was formidable, cautioning us not to wade out any further.
We exited the water and dried our feet with beach towels, working the corners of them in between our toes to remove the itchy sand. Barry and the kids moved their activities to land, tossing a wobbly Frisbee between them. The lake breeze chose to play and have its own way with their plastic toy.
The morning flew past, and we traveled back up the walkway to retrieve the coolers to have lunch. We found a picnic table that didn’t have too many wooden splinters on the seat and unfurled a plastic tablecloth to cover the top. I handed out the sandwiches we packed: turkey breast and Swiss cheese on flaky croissant rolls, pickles, and some yellow mustard. We also packed some cut-up vegetables, fruit, Rice-Krispie treats, oatmeal cookies, and a bag of potato chips. The lake breeze intervened again, tousling our hair as we bowed our heads to say “grace,” thanking God for our ample luncheon. As we chatted quietly, we could hear the waves breaking in the distance along the shore. There was something about the boundlessness of nature that reminded us that God is big, and we are not. Refreshed and with our minds reset, we packed everything up and drove our drowsy sun-drenched self’s home.
Barry and I were glad we spent the day with our friends, realizing how much we needed to be with them. We had considered canceling because, two days prior, we put down his 15-year-old dog, Livy. Spending the day with them helped take the edge off our grief.
The dog had suffered a stroke about two months earlier and we noticed her health deteriorating. Barry reluctantly made the vet appointment to put her down. That day, he boosted her into the back seat of the car for a long, quiet trip. He lifted her from the car and carried her into the vet office. The sympathetic receptionist took us into a low-lit room where they put pets “to sleep.” We both sat sobbing, looking down at Livy and saying our last “goodbyes.” Our bodies shook with emotion.
The veterinary staff member came into the room and quietly approached us. She was crying, too.
“I am so sorry you are losing a friend today,” she said genuinely. “This is the fifth animal we are losing today and none of them are easy.” Her empathy warmed us, and we knew we were not alone going through this emotional experience. The vet came in and administered the euthanizing solution and in less than a minute, Livy was gone from us, painlessly passing on to another realm.
The next day, Barry and I attended the wake for his co-worker’s father who passed away. We were still hurting from losing Livy, so we understood in a fresh way the loss of a family member.
“We are so sorry for your loss,” I said to his mother, searching for words of condolence. Her eyes filled with fresh tears as she nodded to us and glanced across the room to the motionless body of her husband of 50 years. Barry and I held hands, feeling the warm touch between us and knowing it was not forever. We walked around the perimeter of the funeral home room, examining family photos glued to poster boards. All the stages of their family were captured in the photos on display. We saw the parents proudly holding their newborn children and all the events leading up to them holding their grandchildren. For the moment, we stood with this family and celebrated their lives together. Death could not steal the memories they made as a family.
Like those chilly lake waters breaking over us, here we stood experiencing the ebb and flow of everyday human life. What a comfort to know that no one understands us like Jesus. One day our hearts were breaking from losing our dog and two days later we were freely roaming the beach. One day we may be gazing into the eyes of a loved one, carrying on a normal conversation, and soon enough we are closing their eyes for the last time. With the interplay of all our emotions, Jesus is with us during the highs, the lows, and everything in between. Who else keeps track of our complexities and closely monitors our hearts?
Only Him. Why? Because, like that beach walkway leading out to the endless horizon, Jesus Christ stands as the seamless God-Man. He is fully God and fully Man, understanding our weakness and appealing to God on our behalf. “I am the way, the truth and the Life. Not one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus IS the reflection of heaven on earth. He is the embodiment of the sun, the moon, and all facets of creation. Born as an ordinary man, He lived an extraordinary, heaven-empowered life and now He lives, making intercession for us non-stop. With Him, we can live extraordinary lives also.
As you consider these parables and choose to align yourself with heaven, you will become like Him. And as you live in Him, and He in you, living that seamless life together, people will take notice and see heaven on planet earth…in you.