My bride and I just returned from a summer vacation in New England. Anyone who has ever taken a “vacation” knows that sometimes you find yourselves having to come home to recover from the trip! We visited nine different states (and Canada), drove over 2,600 miles, and did it all in ten days! One of my aunts used to tell me that she thought I was a cab driver in a previous life! I don’t know, but maybe I was an over-the-road truck driver!
One of the most beautiful sites we visited was a place called Acadia National Park. This popular site is the only National Park in the state of Maine, and includes some of the most picturesque coastlines in America. We stayed in the community of Bar Harbor, so named because of the sand bar which “appears” at low tide and provides a land-bridge connection to a small island in the harbor there.
One of the first things we noticed when we arrived in Bar Harbor was the main dock in the harbor where three boats were moored. Each of these boats was advertising a variety of whale-watching tours! Now on previous vacations, we have visited the Inside Passage in Alaska, where we had a phenomenal side trip of whale-watching, but, call it my own naiveté, it never dawned on me that whales would be in this part of the ocean as well. After examining the cost for such a trip, we decided that we would indeed reserve spots on one of the trips during the weekend.
Having already cemented the idea of whale-watching in our minds, we then determined to travel through the National Park. One of the first stops on the perimeter road through the park was a place called Gorham Peak. Now this is a fairly popular spot for tourists, an easy hike to the peak about 500 feet above sea level. From that peak the view is outstanding, and although it is not the highest point o the island, as you look out over the coastline, the panoramic vista is breath-taking!
As we are standing atop Gorham Peak, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean and coastline of this island park, and having just been discussing whale-watching on the ocean, we began watching a curious activity not far a coastal point in the distance.
To the naked eye, and even to the magnified eye, as much as anyone in our party and those around us could determine, it looked like two fairly large whales were cavorting in the waters just off that point. I began to immediately click picture after picture, expecting to see those distinctive tail flukes of the humpback whales in the very next moment.
These whales seemed to be fairly intent on staying that same area though, and we were surprised at their lack of movement in the ocean currents. We even watched with curiosity as one sea-going motorcraft headed toward the whales there just off the point. This craft cruised on by the cavorting whales with relative indifference to them, but giving them a wide berth.
We knew that our journey the rest of the day would take us closer to this spot in the ocean, but we also figured that the whales would be long gone by the time we arrived at the point overlooking their activity. We descended the peak, got into our vehicle and moved toward that point. There just happened to be a parking lot close by the point, as it indeed in its own right is a very scenic spot on the perimeter route. But from the parking lot to the point is a blind walk. As we rounded the point, it became obvious that what we thought were whales were nothing but rocks!
What is true in “whale” watching is also true in life. Oftentimes we see things, and make serious observations about what we have seen, and then draw conclusions based upon those observations, only to discover that our conclusions were wrong because our observations were erroneous. Standing on that peak, I would have sworn that there were at least two whales out there in the ocean not far from the coast line.
But how often do we do the same thing in life? We draw conclusions about what is happening based upon what we observe. But then the closer we get to the situation, we discover that our observations were mistaken. This is true in relationships, in news events, and even in sports. In fact, in sports, that is one reason why the “instant replay” rules are changing and becoming more prominent.
But it is also true in the spiritual realm. I believe that oftentimes we make observations about God and His workings in our lives or the lives of others and then draw conclusions based upon those observations. For example, how many times have you heard of people rejecting God or asking questions like “God, don’t you care that I’m dying here?”, when we are awash in a sea of debt or depression or sickness or whatever?
While we were standing on that peak, looking out over the ocean, we could have continued to look down upon those “whales”, walked away, and never doubted that we saw two whales cavorting in the ocean foam that day. But our continued persistence to observe more closely brought us to the truth.
So too when you and I find ourselves doubting God, His power, His faithfulness, and His love for you and me, we need to continue to persist in observing His works – up close and more personal than perhaps we have ever done so. And who knows? We might actually come upon a whale! (We did – on the whale-watching boat!)
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette.