|Oregon Coast (not Whidbey Island)|
Below, is a reprint from an essay which was published a few years ago by Episcopal Church News. (For another perspective upon returning home, see On Coming Home.)
When we recently had the opportunity to spend a few days at Seattle Pacific University’s Camp Casey, situated on the Admiralty Inlet side of Whidbey Island across the choppy strait from Port Townsend, it reminded me of some experiences I had working there as a college student during the summer of 1988.
I decided to take my daughter Sarah on a walk one cool afternoon along some of the forest trails to the north of the conference center grounds. The path wound its familiar way up among the wind-swept evergreens and the occasional madrona. We paused to explore an old fort from the 1890s; its once busy walkways and concrete bunkers now quiet and much overgrown with blackberry bushes and tall weeds, and its stories and pictures slowly fading from collective memory. (Fort Casey State Park itself lies a mile or two to the south.)
We then proceeded on along the needle-lined trail, heading up a gradually leveling incline with the forest on our right and a cliff overlooking the crashing surf some twenty feet off to our left. Making certain that Sarah was safely standing on the trail, I carefully stepped towards the left, searching for the place where I recalled having devotions from time to time during the summer of 1988.
I found what appeared to be the right location, but its look was quite different now. Instead of the broad sandy cliff face with a fairly clear path to its center that I remembered, the cliff now seemed much higher and closer to the trail. Not being particularly comfortable with heights (just try to get me on the 4-mile Astoria-Megler Bridge again!), I returned to the path, and we resumed our trek to the north for a time until the trail faded and then disappeared entirely among the grass and trees. We plodded back to Camp Casey to watch and wait for the late afternoon’s arrival of the grazing deer.
It occurred to me recently that this experience was instructional in a spiritual sense. When we return to places from our past, they frequently seem smaller--not more expansive. It’s something akin to visiting your hometown for the first time after being away in college (depending on where you're from). This homecoming is reminiscent of times long gone and the community may stand smaller than recalled.
So, this experience of returning to a place I held close from younger days was odd in that it did not conform to the usual and comfortable perceptions. The vantage point from which I recalled reading and gazing upon the gray heaving waves below had changed a great deal over the past decade. Considering the winter storms that lash Whidbey Island, that alteration of scenery and environment should not have been so surprising.
What it does remind one of, however, is that while much concerning us personally, and the landscape surrounding us for a time, undergoes a continual "sea change" or evolution, our God "does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17). Instead, He is the same yesterday as He will be tomorrow. In a time of national crisis and an uneasy future, there is something comforting in acknowledging this simple, yet profound, attribute of our God. No matter what changes here, we hold that what is most important stands eternal, and that we need not be pulled-down by the continual disintegration and moral entropy sweeping in our lives from all sides.
(This was re-printed from the April 2003 issue of Oregon's Episcopal Church News. Some editorial changes by the magazine's editor have been reversed, and the writer has made other slight editorial adjustments.)