My special place

Do you have a special place where you go to gain perspective when the burden of life presses down? So, surely, must have had the writer of Psalm 139.

By Amy Butler

While discussing a problem she was having, a friend mentioned needing to go to what she called “her place.” She explained that there was a place up at the top of a mountain where she always goes to think. When the stuff of life presses down hard and burdens her spirit, she goes to her special place to pray and process, listen for whatever direction she can hear and scan the horizon for any solace she can possibly see.

Big IslandI immediately knew what she meant, because I have a place, too. My thinking and praying place, the place that helps me connect to God, is at the edge of an ocean. And not just any ocean; it has to be an ocean spot somewhere in Hawaii.

I grew up in the islands, and the image of the ocean there feels like home to me. Layers upon layers of blue form such a vast stretch that I am a tiny speck in comparison. Standing on the shore and looking out over that ocean, I can sometimes hear direction and very often gain some solace.

This past week I spent some time on the rugged and beautiful eastern coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, hiking down winding paths to black sand beaches and sitting on the rocks to take in the view of that immense ocean. I looked at the different layers of blue. I watched the birds soar. I listened to the waves crashing against the rocks. It was definitely my place.

While in my place, I thought of the writer of the Psalms. He too must have had a special place -- a place (or two) that called forth poetry from his heart and allowed his thoughts and prayers, yearnings and wonderings to coalesce into expressions of the deepest thoughts of so many of us. How else could he have put all these things into words?

Suspecting the Psalmist never got a chance to sit on the eastern shore of the Big Island, I took some liberty this week imagining part of Psalm 139, written from the edge of my ocean, my own wondering and words woven together with the crashing waves in the background:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I climbed all the way up the rugged slopes of Mauna Kea, you are there.

If I dive deep into the blue ocean, underneath the reefs way out to sea, you are there.

If I soar like a great Iwa bird far above the white-tipped swells, if I ride the wind all the way across the sea to Kaho’olawe, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will roll over me, inky blackness descending like the rush of a huge wave at night, all the stars I see above me extinguished altogether,” even the black night quiet but for the sound of water rushing to the shore is not so dark to you. In your eyes, the black sand and rocks, the inky darkness, is only a hint at the possibility that belies the light: brilliant blue water, white foamed waves, breeze blowing all around you.


Even in the middle of my own darkness, you are here.

With apologies to the Psalmist, I’ve co-opted his reflection and adapted it to my own place. What about you? What about your place?

Wherever it is, God is there, too.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.