Michelle Martin

Life’s a beach

July 7, 2021

When I was a child, I don’t think we went to the beach much.

We lived in the western suburbs of Chicago, and for my family, a beach day usually meant packing the car for a day trip, unless we took a family vacation to Door County. Otherwise, I think we usually went somewhere up near Zion, carrying coolers full of food and Kool-Aid and bags of towels, blankets and sand toys.

Maybe there were other families set up on the sand or picnicking in the shade nearby, but I don’t ever remember it being crowded.

It was something that happened maybe once or twice a summer, I think.

Now, living in Chicago, we can literally take the bus to the beach.

Truth be told, we usually don’t. Teresa is 11, and for her, going to the beach still means playing in the sand, and no one wants to share a seat with the sand we (and the beach toys) would leave behind.

But we do try to make it to the beach several times a summer, alone and with friends, on the weekends when it’s crowded and in the mornings and late afternoons on weekdays when it’s not.

We go when it’s sunny and hot, when it’s breezy and cool, when it’s overcast and might rain. Living a few miles from the lake means that going to the beach doesn’t have to be an all-day thing; it can be something that lasts an hour if the weather turns bad or the mood sours.

The mood doesn’t usually sour, though. Something about being near the water calms us. Looking at Lake Michigan, the inland sea so vast that the opposite shore can’t be seen, invites us to contemplate the vastness of creation, reminds us of the oceans that are so much bigger.

The empty sky that rises over the water, stretching far above the tallest buildings in the skyline, drawing our eyes and minds to the infinity of Creator.

When I’ve been sitting still too long, Teresa is there to beckon me into the water, either breathtakingly cold or pleasantly cool depending on how late we are in the summer season, or to ask me to haul water and dig holes for another sand castle.

I wonder whether Jesus, who often retreated to the water when he was in need of refreshment, played on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s not far from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee — about 15 miles, or a little more than half a day’s walk at an easy pace, more than doable for a family that made the much longer journey to Jerusalem on foot.

By the time we leave the beach, the sand castles will have withered back into the beach and the chill of the water will be a memory.

The sand, of course, will always be with us. Some things are eternal.


  • family life