On our recent vacation, my husband and I tried our hands at kayaking in a lagoon off the Atlantic Ocean in Florida. We started at a leisurely pace, paddling our way to a cove where we saw several manatees. Eventually one decided he was hungry and started nibbling on the side of our kayak. This was a little close for comfort, so we paddled out of the cove. Once back in the main waterway we spotted a dolphin, and my pursuit began.
This dolphin was catching some breakfast. We could trace its path under the calm waters until suddenly it came out and snatched a fish into its mouth. Each time it did this, it swam farther upstream. What was initially a 40 yard distance stretched to 60, then 80 and soon we were in opposite end zones.
I was determined not to let the dolphin get away. I had never been this close to one in open waters and I was not going to waste the opportunity. So we paddled–sometimes in sync, much of the time out. We would go hard to the left, then over-correct and find ourselves facing to the right. My shoulders and back were aching, but I would not give up the chase.
Eventually it became clear to me that I was not going to get closer to the dolphin. It eluded me over and over again. My husband, who had given it a good effort on my behalf, was relieved when I finally gave it up.
Unfortunately at this point we only had a few minutes left in the kayak. What might have been a relaxing time for us to get away and enjoy quiet conversation in nature had become a vehicle for me to prove something. I wanted to be able to say, “I was a few feet from a dolphin!” I made it about me.
In Terrence Malick’s film, The Tree of Life, Brad Pitt portrays a somewhat harsh, brooding and disillusioned father. In a poignant scene he reveals his weakness to his eldest son, confessing he has “missed the glory” all around.
My husband teasingly referred to this as we finished our kayaking trip, but it stayed with me for a while after. I fail to see the glory daily, just as I did in the kayak. I pursue what eludes me—a clean home, an empty email inbox, children who don’t repeatedly burp at the table. I focus and plan and paddle away toward these things, all the while missing the glory.
It’s not that a clean home or well-mannered children are something that should not be pursued. Indeed, these are some of the tasks lovingly given me by my Father.
Rather, as I attempt these tasks, I must remember the glory. And this glory is no longer just seen in creation, as amazing as creation may be. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV)
The glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ. He came, lived a perfect life, died in my place, and rose again. The glory is no longer veiled; the curtain is torn in two.
So as I paddle after the things I pursue, I want to remember this King of glory and rest in Him. May I not miss it. May I know when to let the dolphin go and instead enjoy the beauty all around. And may I invite others into the kayak and point them to the glory as well.