Friday, August 30, 2013

Whale Spouts and Faith

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to spend almost two weeks at Oceanside on the Oregon coast, thanks to my wonderful parents.  One day while we were there, we went to the nearby lighthouse and were told "The whales are out today."  Now, it has long been a personal dream of mine to see whales in the wild and I knew that they sometimes made an appearance along the coast.  So, when I heard they had been sighted, I started watching the wide expanse of water in front of us, squinting with my eyes, peering into binoculars, struggling to discern if a particular patch of black in the water might possibly be a whale or not.  You see, I've never seen whales outside of television and movie screens.  I wasn't sure what to look for.  I had only the word of those around me that these magnificent, superhuman, awe-inspiring creatures were there, somewhere, hidden below the surface, making occasional appearances.

Then, just as I had given up the search, my Dad announced that two women with whom he was talking had spotted a whale playing near some rocks.  He pointed out the spot in the water.  I trained my binoculars on it.  Lo and behold, up shot a spout of white water, like a mini-geyser above the waves, followed by the all-too-brief appearance of a curve of black.  I kept watching and soon saw another spout, and a bit of black, and then another.  After a while, it seemed to have stopped, but it had moved towards the stretch of water near where we were staying.

Later that day, I saw the spouts again.  I now knew what to look for, and soon I could readily spot the signs of the leviathan's existence.  It was far away, mind you, and those spouts were small, easy to miss if you weren't looking for them, but so inspiring and exciting to me because they represented the real, honest existence of this magnificent, strange and incredible being right there in the same world as me, swimming in the same water in which I waded.

The whole experience got me thinking about faith.  I only knew to look for the whales because someone else told me.  I had to have patience and a certain amount of faith in what I was told.  Once I saw and knew it for myself, I wanted to tell everyone.  I wanted to run up and down the beach yelling "Did you see?  Did you see the whale spouts?  There's a whale out there!  Look!"  And the spouts, the signs of the whale's existence, were exciting to me because of what they represented, what my faith told me they meant.

I think it is sometimes this way with God.  We want to see God up close, in person.  We want signs that God exists.  When someone we trust points us to the signs, it can make a difference for us.  When we see and believe in a sign, it energizes our faith.  It makes us want to tell others.  But on the surface, those signs may not seem like much.  They may be easy to miss.  You may go about your business playing frisbee or beach volleyball and never know that just over your shoulder, an awe-inspiring being is sending up the signal of its existence.  And if you see it, if you believe in what it represents, the rest of the people around you may wonder what is wrong with you that you keep staring out to sea at some speck on the horizon as if it is the eighth wonder of the world.

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