“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” — Blaise Pascal
When I was in my first year of college I received the “Benjamin Franklin ‘early to bed, early to rise’ ” award. It was apt, as I did go to bed and get up early, but it didn’t seem deserved as it was my nature, not my effort, that caused it. I remain that way today, so much so, that even on vacation I get up well before the sun.
This past week, I’ve had the privilege of walking the beach at sunrise. I prefer getting half my walk in before the sun rises, when the beach is empty of other people, and I can sing and talk and even prancercise (if I were so inclined, although I usually save that for keeping warm during my ocean swims). When I’m watching the glories of the sunrise, I can’t help comparing the rising sun with the risen Son of God. Exercise on the beach becomes a beautiful time of worship.
The first day I awakened at 5 (no alarm clock needed) and set out on my walk well before dawn, mostly because I wasn’t sure what time the sun would rise and didn’t want to miss it. As I stepped onto the wooden beach walkover, it was so dark and the shadows so deep that I was afraid to continue. I almost turned back, except that I took a moment to discover an “assistive light” app (yea! smartphone!) and then used it to guide my steps down to the shore. Once there, the white sand served as the light for my path. As far as I could see on that white sand, I saw no other human form and felt free to be me in that perfect cathedral of early morning sky.
What stands out to me now is that at that moment, with barely a glow in the sky, I chose to walk north toward what I thought was the location in which the sun would most likely rise.
I walked toward it, shooting photos of the sky’s progressive changes. I reached my two-mile destination, certain that was the best spot on the beach to see the sunrise, but not wanting to linger, I turned for the return walk anyway. As I walked toward home, I kept expecting to have to look backward to see the sunrise—but it was always at my left shoulder. In fact, when I got back to my condo, I still had a perfect view. The sunrise was front and center.
The next morning—despite my joy in walking and despite being fully awake—I felt God telling me to stay put. I was drawn to the sunrise but marked it with photos from my balcony.
It was still a picture-perfect view. The sunrise was located front and center.
It reminded me of times in my early 20s, when on a summer mission project in Wildwood, N.J., I often walked in the evening and sat near the intracoastal waterway, enjoying the reflection of the setting sun or the rising moon. (I didn’t awaken early enough to watch the sunrise because our evening meetings went too late.) No matter where I located myself, the reflecting beams of light came right at me. I joked then that I was so important that God centered the sun and the moon on wherever I was. It always seemed to center on me.
But as I walked the beach that early morning, seeking to be in the presence of the rising sun while engaged in worshiping the risen Son, I noticed all the other beach walkers who had appeared with the sun and wondered if they, too, were worshiping the Creator and not just the creation.
I spoke to myself the psalmists words:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1)
—and considered Paul’s declaration to the Romans that
“…what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
It seemed to me that through this sunrise, this virtual display of God’s glory, my Savior was calling out to all mankind, “Here I am!” Who could see this earthly display of grandeur and not believe in a Creator?
But I was confused. It seemed a contrast to that Scripture in Jeremiah 29:13:
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
While I realize the Jeremiah Scripture isn’t doctrine, I know that God spoke similar messages throughout the Old Testament. How could God be both so completely evident through His creation and yet be a person we must seek and find?
Then I thought of my own experience. The sun doesn’t venture into my bedroom and push me out of bed. I choose to get up and get out to see the sunrise. Yes, as my college award suggests, I am a morning person and this isn’t as hard for me as it is for others, perhaps. But it is my desire to see the sunrise that causes me to choose behaviors—early to bed, early to rise (and coffee and clothes at the ready)—and those behaviors put me into position to see the glories that point to my glorious Savior.
God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Through His creation, he also says, “Here I am!”
I chose a path up the beach, determined to get the best view of the sunrise, but just my act of being out there ensured I would see it—God made sure I did. In fact, no matter where I happened to be on that east coast that morning, He made the sun front and center; its beams of light streamed directly toward me while also streaming directly at those other humans along the beach. I believe we must seek and find God; I also believe Blaise Pascal got it right when he said that God puts inside us a God-shaped vacuum that nothing but Him will satisfy. Pascal may have based his statement on Peter’s address in Acts 17, where he tells the people of Athens their desire for a god (evidenced by their altar to “The god who is not known”) is because “God wanted them to look for him and perhaps search all around for him and find him, though he is not far from any of us” (verses 22-27). I believe God places a desire in us to know Him (though we sometimes don’t recognize it for what it is), that desire causes us to seek Him (though we often try to fill that vacuum with different things), and when we seek Him He can be found. In short, my morning walk on the beach showed me:
- God created inside us the impetus (desire) to seek Him.
- We seek for Him as I sought the sunrise that morning.
- When we seek, He makes Himself plain to see, just like the sunrise, whether we are two miles down the beach or on our condo porch.
We will only be content when we find the perfect fit to that vacuum inside us—and so we seek. God, as His creation clearly demonstrates, wants to be found.
And what a joy there is in finding Him. The sunrise is a mere image of the risen Son of God—and He is so worthy of the seeking. Find Him!