My footprints did not reveal the one I carried. Safely in my arms, where he couldn't eat sand or fall in the water, Tommy saw the ocean for the first time.
On July 12, the sun hid in the clouds over Long Island Sound. My 11-month-old son, Tommy, twirled my hair around his chubby little fingers as we walked across the beach to the water. The gentle waves lapped against the shoreline. The closer we got to the water, the more Tommy babbled and kicked his legs. His hands opened and closed — his sign for "I want." His excitement made me grin.
I walked closer and dipped a toe into the icy water. I wondered, Will Tommy like this cold water on his toes? As I squatted down close to the water, I held him just above the sand. He touched his feet down, then drew them up quickly like a hopping frog as the gentle wave drew near. He did this several times before he let the water catch him. His delighted squeals let me know he liked how it felt.
I carried him further down the shore, and we watched people and boats and birds. Tommy pointed and chirped "This, this, this." I followed his gaze to spy little children making castles and older boys tossing a Frisbee. He turned to look over the water. I realized he had never seen such an open space before this day. How big is the ocean? I pondered myself in childlike wonder. So big that its other shore is several time zones away! So big, I sometimes forget people in Europe touch its other shore just as I do here in Connecticut!
My parents have a picture of me as a baby in my Dad's arms looking at the Pacific Ocean as the wind tousled my baby fine hair. They always told me I was terrified of the waves. Whenever I looked at the picture, though, I longed to be there. I grew up in Ohio, far from ocean waves. The photograph held a mystery in the image of powerful water.
What is it about the water? Jesus began His public ministry in the waters of the Jordan River when John baptized Him. Our life as Christians begins with water. Even in the womb, tiny developing babies are surrounded by water.
God's majesty shines through all of creation — trees, mountains, animals, and of course people. But water — in great lakes, driving rivers, crashing waterfalls, storms, floods, and the mighty oceans — elicits a deeper awe.
Tommy and I headed back to the rest of the family at the other end of the beach, just as thunder began rumbling. I stopped and turned Tommy toward the ocean for one last look before we trudged up the beach. We headed back to the cottage through a downpour. More water.
Even though our day at the beach was cut short because of the thunderstorm, Tommy's first time at the ocean reminded me of God's great glory. The baby responded with wonder and delight at the Lord's creation as only an innocent infant could. My baby taught me by his response to the water to remember I, too, am God's precious child, and I should be in awe of His Creation, just like Tommy is.