Sanderlings at Daybreak

An orange spark appears on the horizon, gently growing, brighter, rounder, until the fully risen sun casts its fire over the ocean. Sanderlings dance on the shoreline, dashing their feet into the edge of the watery universe, then charging with gusto away from it.

They make no apology, only thrilling at daybreak, basking in life and breath and fresh ocean air, doing their part, occupying their space with natural beauty, with their own significance.

I watch the birds and their breakfast exercise against the magnificent backdrop of sunrise. I am taking a respite from winter and work and routine, savoring a long weekend in the open space of an off-season visit to the beach.

I am a little bit like the sanderlings, I think. Walking with one foot on dry ground and one foot submerged in that which is depth and mystery, waves flowing in and out. Life breaking into death, death breaking into life. Eternity breaking into transience. My life hardly touching the edge of the universe.

No wonder our souls ache for significance.

Later I find a small shell, white and smooth. Beautiful and lost between the worlds of sand and water, a mere fragment of matter. And what does it matter? What difference can it make? But this one tiny part of the ecosystem fulfills its purpose—even purposes. A shelter for a creature, an anchor for some algae. A piece of the bedrock clasping the beach.

A sanderling, a seashell, a woman—none of these visible from the moon or the Milky Way. But all are visible by the one who planned them and shaped them.

The splendor of God in sun-sparkling sea and endless sky, the intricacy of God in the sanderling’s beak and the shape of the shell. His fingerprint is everywhere. Yet, He has written our names on the palm of His hands.

What are humans that You are mindful of us? Who am I, that You would think of me?

And therein is the significance. Meaningful to God. So much so that humans—me, you, we—are the reason the Creator came to Earth. He walked its shorelines, felt its waves, one foot on dry ground, the other submerged in the sea. He is the mystery breaking in with revelation, the life breaking into death, eternity breaking into transience. His holiness casts its fire into our hearts that we might be pure, washing us from the inside out, a new life dawning so we can occupy the place He’s given us with purpose and significance.

And with joy, like the sanderlings dancing at daybreak.

2 Responses to “ “Sanderlings at Daybreak”

  1. Linda Williams says:

    Oh, Jo. You definitely are significant. I join you and the Sanderlings in seeing God’s finger prints on us. Glad you got to rest on that beach.

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