Up a little, then back down again, I bobbed on cerulean waves. My butt was planted in the center of a blue and gray float tube I’d purchased at Wal-Mart for $3.98 only a few days earlier. I sipped at a Medalla lager as I took in the sea, sand, palm trees, pelicans, and people. My sun-starved skin was happily absorbing all of the UV rays that it could. I’d put on sunblock too late but wasn’t overly worried about it. I was mostly content.
It was the last day of an inexpensive vacation in Puerto Rico. I’d even left the mainland with friends, this time. We’d toured the famous Bacardi Distillery, hiked in the jungle, marched around Castillo San Felipe El Morro and done all of the touristy things we could. We learned about the island’s history. My Spanish vocabulary doubled. We relaxed on the beach.
In my mind, there is no paradise like the beach. I adore the smell of the ocean, love the warm waters of the Carribean (though we were on the Atlantic side of the island- the water was still on the better side of tepid). I have an insatiable affection for all of the trappings that come with the beach. I can go to the mountains, hike around and have a lovely time. I’ve gone on safari, explored jungles and visited beautiful cities, but they aren’t the beach.
I was a bit concerned as I floated there, by the fact that I was only mostly content. Sure, my mind had turned toward the things waiting for me at home. I was dreading the red-eye flight home, mostly because I suck at sleeping on planes. But none of that was the problem. I was ready to go home, ready to subject myself to no sleep then go back to work.
But why? I was in paradise. We’d stayed busy, but not the kind of busy I experience at home.
It took me a few minutes, but I realized that I actually had to try to smell the ocean. As much as I adore sand, I really don’t like when it gets into the swim shorts because chafing is a horrible, horrible thing. A sunburn is a sign that one has been outside, enjoying the sun, but it also hurts. In short, the freshness of paradise was wearing off a little. I didn’t think that could happen.
Is paradise a function of novelty? How long will it take for a person to take the things they claimed to adore for granted? I’ve heard from many people who live by the ocean that they rarely go to the beach. If I were to follow one of my dreams and move toward the equator and nearer to the beach, would I also eventually neglect it? Probably. Because my busyness is a point of personality. Because my sin, like a shadow, follows me everywhere.
Paradise is, therefore a function of novelty, this side of Christ’s return. We can build our utopias and theme parks, visit all of the warm and beautiful places, or simply float along on the ocean drinking cheap beer, but human presence will always ruin any place we might deem perfect. Not that humans are so terrible, we just can’t help but sin. Much like pigeons can’t help but poop in your piña colada (totally happened).
When we get there, paradise will also be less about a location than it’ll be about a relationship. We have that relationship now, but it feels a little long-distance at times, doesn’t it? To be able to see Jesus, face-to-face, to examine his hands and to audibly hear his voice, to fall on our knees and worship him in Spirit and truth will be our true paradise.
So, I will say to all of the beaches out there, I love you. But our time and relationship will always be limited if we’re going to keep that love alive. It’s a hard truth, but we both saw it coming. Until next time…