Beauty A Few Inches Deep
Several years ago while conducting a tour to the Holy Lands; I had an opportunity of visiting Taba, Egypt for the first time. Taba is located just across the border from Israel at the farthest tip of the Red Sea. Many areas in the Middle East are dry, desolate places, but even I was not prepared for the scene that greeted me as we crossed the border. It seemed that even the words desolate, dry, and barren would not do the place justice. I could not see anything green for miles, nor were there any signs of life except where man had planted a few trees or shrubs to break the harshness of the landscape. We boarded our bus and drove across the desert toward our hotel. I remember looking around, seeing nothing but rock and sky. I searched for a few birds to indicate some form of life but could find none. Nothing seemed to live here. I thought as I surveyed the dry, bleak, austere scenery: “Whoever God assigned to create this part of his world needs to go back and take Creation 101 again, because they didn’t do a very good job here. Maybe they got started and the recess bell rang, and they never came back to add a bit of color or movement!” I do not think I have ever visited a more inhuman, forbidding, vista.
We checked into our hotel which I was pleased to discover was beautifully landscaped with a drip irrigation system, but just across the highway the dead rock of the mountains reminded me of my first impressions. I did not know that I would soon receive one of the greatest lessons I have learned while traveling the lands of the Bible.
Later that same day, I put on a snorkel mask and went swimming just a few feet off the beach to look at the coral reefs I was informed lay close to shore. I was astonished by what I experienced! In some places the reef was just a few inches under the surface of the water. What a different world this was! Beautiful corals of varied and contrasting color greeted my eyes. Moving in and out of dark caverns and darting through the waving sea grasses were fish of all varieties displaying the most wonderful patterns and brilliant colors. Here was life at its fullest—a rich teeming world of movement, design, variety—creation in majestic fulfillment. There are few places I have been where one can see life more beautiful than snorkeling in the Red Sea. The sea itself shifts and changes through a kaleidoscope of blues, from a pale sky blue over the sand to the royal darkness that indicates deep water. As I was looking at all that magnificent splendor I remembered my first judgment of the area. I had condemned this part of the earth’s surface as a God forsaken place. As I swam along the surface of the water for hours with my face peering into the depths, I could feel God’s smile and his delighted laughter—I’m sure he has a most agreeable laugh. I was enjoying the wonder of his creation which had been hidden from my view by just a few inches of water. When the impression of the two contrasting worlds of the desert and sea was sufficiently engraved in my mind the Lord whispered to me, “Michael, you must learn to see all things, and all places, and all people, as you have learned to see today.” I had learned something important about life and about the God I worship. He always sees the beauty underneath the surface. This is especially true of his sons and daughters and he would have us see in like manner.