Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Position and direction

When we are at the beach, we start to track the tides.  Nearly always, a tide chart is affixed to the side of the refrigerator.

Low tide is when the beach strand is at its widest.  Often, the wind seems gentler at low tide.  Tide pools form in the low depressions, where trapped water warms in the sun and small children splash contentedly with their buckets and shovels, or sometimes just lie on their bellies absorbing sand into their swim suits.

At high tide, the beach is often wild and loud, the waves reaching high up towards the dunes.  Beach gear left unattended may be swept out to sea by the ever encroaching water.  You have to shout to your companions to be heard, and the water can slap you down or knock you over if you aren't careful.

My kids used to enjoy high tide, because it was more exciting.  However, most people like low tide best.  If you want to have a good time riding the waves on a boogie board, you want to go out sometime after the tide has begun to come back in from low tide, as it ramps up to high tide power.

Here we have our first example of position and direction.  You are at a position with high tide or low tide, but (as in my example) if you want to have a good time on your boogie board, it is not so much about your position at high or low tide; it is about whether the tide is coming in or going out.  Boogie boarding goes better when the tide is coming in, when the direction of the tide is inward.

I've noticed this same phenomenon with the seasons of the year.  I track the solstices and equinoxes like a fiend in my old age.  My favorite is the summer solstice.  I love long days, warm weather and lots of light (I've fantasized about owning a home in southern Argentina where I could go to spend November through March).  I love the summer solstice, but I love the spring equinox nearly as much, because it marks our victory of coming once again into that part of the year when days are longer than nights.  The summer solstice is the position I aim for, but the spring equinox tells me we're heading towards it and making good progress.

Even the winter solstice has a good side, if you consider it as a direction rather than a  position.  Immediately after the winter solstice, days start to get longer rather than shorter, which is quite a victory in its own right.  The lengthening of the days always adds an extra measure of satisfaction to my feeling of having survived the holidays after the year turns over to a brand new January 1.

The only point in the year that I decidedly dislike is the fall equinox, the time when nights begin to be longer than days, which I also associate with the start of the school year and Halloween.  Ugh.  But God is gracious in that He set things up so that preparations for His Son's birthday party begin to brighten that quarter of the year with candles and strings of sparkly lights which hold us over, amidst many precious gatherings of families and friends, until the days start to get longer once again.

What I'm trying to say is this: it's not just about where you are... it's about where you are headed.  If your goal is to reach Chicago, and you are just an hour east of Chicago, you are pretty close to your goal.  However, if your route is headed east, and you continue in that direction, you will not reach Chicago, no matter how near you may have been.  (Well, not unless you go around the entire earth, but that would take a very long time, and you'd have to figure out how to cross oceans.)

I could draw a lot of conclusions about life from this, but I am tired, so I hope you will ponder the idea and come up with some conclusions of your own.  Suffice it for me to say that the journey of life is never static.  You are always going in one direction or another, and sometimes you even have to take three left turns to make a right.  Sometimes you have to get through a winter before a spring thaw brings a spark of hope back into your heart.

Just keep track of where you are, and where you need to be, and keep plugging away, because life will surprise you most of the time, but God has a plan.

The tides come in, the tides go out.

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