Living in Florida yields some wonderful benefits. Yesterday I was privileged to enjoy one of them.
At 3:30 a.m. I climbed into a van with fifteen other friends and loved ones, and for the next three hours we ventured through the dark morning hours and across the state. The ride featured coffee, music, naps, chatter and laughter–the stuff of early morning legends. Just before 6:30 a.m. we pulled into Saint Augustine beach on the Atlantic coast of Florida and piled out of the van, stretching our muscles and inhaling the salty smell of the dawn.
The beach was nearly empty. The black sky was experiencing its first kiss of illumination. Streaks of pink and orange infiltrated the darkness, announcing the sun’s arrival. We slipped off our shoes and marched across the cool sand, down to the edge of the coast where water met earth, and soaked in the sound of the tide gently crashing on the shore. It was so peaceful, so serene, and yet so vibrant with life.
Not just life in the technical sense of inhalation and exhalation, but in the essence of existence. Life, meaning the glorious presence and power of the Creator. As we beheld the coast stretching for miles, and the foaming waves upon the sand, and the rippling ocean that seemed to go on forever, and the explosion of colors that filled the immensity of the sky–and as the sun poked the first glimpse of his red face above the water–there was no denying the work of the Almighty.
In reminded me of 2 Peter 1:19, where the apostle tells the church to let the light of Christ shine in their hearts, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart.” When I watch a sunrise, I can see why Scripture would compare it to Jesus. There is almost nothing more splendid. It is the dominion of darkness being freed from nighttime; it is a world made alive.
Even after the sun was fully revealed we lingered on the beach for several hours walking, talking, and taking pictures. We spent the rest of the day in Saint Augustine; we ate the local food, saw the historic buildings, and went back to the beach for an afternoon of body-surfing on the waves. It was a day of fun, a day of fellowship, and a day of lifelong memories.
Then it got even better. At 4 p.m. we all piled back into the van. Every seat was crammed, and most of us were squeezed between sandy beach bags, dirty clothes, coolers full of snacks and water bottles, and each other. But the day wasn’t over. No, now came the second act of of this quest, the capper, the grand finale. Now we embarked on another four hours of driving back across the state, back to the Gulf of Mexico. We would complete this day in style. We started it by watching the sun rise on the eastern beach. Now we would finish it by watching the sun set on the western beach.
On the long drive back, the effects of the day began to settle in. We were sunburned. We were tired. We were sealed like sardines in a can. And we loved every second.
Just after 8 p.m. we pulled into Indian Rocks beach and once again spilled out of the van. We marched like conquering heroes across the boardwalk and onto the beach; we had arrived to claim our prize, to soak in the final reward of our day’s quest. Once again we were greeted by an endless collage of pink and orange smeared across the sky. Heaven’s pastel reflected in the shimmering water below. We were there to finish what we started. We welcomed the sun in the morning, and we were there to bid him farewell for the night.
With that day’s sunrise still fresh in our hearts, this was like watching a film in reverse. We had seen the sun awaken; now he descended into sleep. We had seen the sun ignite; now he faded. We had seen the world come alive with the glory of dawn, and now we watched it submerge into evening. As the red tip of the sun finally disappeared beneath the top of the horizon, we cheered. It was a grand finish to be sure.
Despite only a few hours of sleep between all sixteen of us, our spirits were vibrant. We were alive. Joyously, gloriously alive and soaking up every second of this treasured adventure. We followed the sun that day. Chased him down like a priceless jewel. We witnessed his journey and watched the day unfold right before our eyes. We met the day at its arrival, then voyaged just to be there for its departure. We didn’t just live the day. We pursued it. We chased it.
The whole experience triggered the nostalgia in me. It got me thinking. After all, the average person lives about 70 years. That’s over 25,000 days. Of all those days, how many do we chase? Of all those opportunities, how many do we seize? Of all the thousands of days God has blessed us with, how many are we living? Are we just trudging our feet through life? Are we just trying to survive? Are we living for the weekend, or living for retirement? Are we letting this precious life fly by?
Or have we made every moment a quest to “follow the sun”? Are we cherishing every second that we’ve been given? Are we chasing each day like a priceless jewel?
As wise King Solomon put it, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13).
God has made this life a precious and beautiful thing. He designed us to rejoice in it by following Him, and He has designed our existence to be a grand adventure for His glory. To delight in each moment–whether we’re feasting or working, whether we’re young or old, whether we’re rich or poor–is a gift straight from the hand of the Almighty. Let us not neglect such a gift. God gave us life, and by walking with Him He has given us the chance to enjoy that life for all its worth.
As we embark on the adventure of each day, may we revel in the glory of our Creator. Let us chase each day just as we chased the sun across the state. May the morning star rise in our hearts. May we always rejoice in the work of Christ, and the life Christ has given us.