My parish of St. Andrew’s in Myrtle Beach is located right on Kings Highway, about a five-minute walk from the shore. And so, folks often ask me if I spend much time at the beach. The answer, sadly, is no. The duties of ministry keep me fairly busy, and my Scots-Irish and Scandinavian skin is not overly fond of the sun. So, I don’t often go to the beach, at least not during the summer.
However, I do enjoy riding my bicycle along Ocean Boulevard in the early mornings. As well as being excellent exercise, these bike rides are great for people-watching. Up and down the boulevard, you see visitors from all over the country and indeed the world; other cyclists and joggers out chasing after good health; or people on the beach for an early-morning walk, their eyes scanning the sand for shells or looking out to sea as the ruddy sunrise glows in the clouds.
You see groups of men heading out of the hotels in golf gear, joking and laughing, headed for a day on the links, and big families of tired parents and energetic kids crowding into the pancake houses.
Some are up early; some have been out all night. You never know who or what you might see. The boulevard is a fascinating window into the wide expanse of human life, all of it so precious to God that He was willing to die for it.
One morning as I was riding along, I saw a man out walking his dog.
He was perhaps in his late 60s or early 70s, though he was a trim as a college athlete, a cross-country runner, maybe. Not an ounce of extra fat was on him, and his posture was ramrod straight, shoulders back.
He had on aviator shades, and behind them his face was square and somewhat stern, and deeply tanned.
His hair was totally white, cut in a military-style flat top, high and tight, the edges sharp as a razor. He had on a gray T-shirt with one word printed in black across the front: Marine. ‘No kidding,’ I thought.
But as I drew closer, my eyes drifted from the man down the length of leash to his dog. What sort of dog do you imagine this Marine, this lean man of virtue and discipline, had? A Doberman? A German shepherd, perhaps? No, it was a toy poodle. A tiny, fluffy, white as snow toy poodle with a little pink bow on top of its head.
I was so surprised, I nearly stopped to say, “Excuse me, Sir, but I think you’ve got the wrong dog.”
As a pair, they struck me as utterly incongruous. These two were like an ice cream float made of chocolate ice cream and grapefruit juice, they just didn’t work together. Nevertheless, there they were. As I rode past them, Fluffy sent a couple of yippy barks my way, and I had to smile.
I smiled because of course, the world is full of incongruous things, things that don’t seem to go together but nevertheless confound our wisdom by working together perfectly.
We all know some married couples or business partners or brothers and sisters or BFFs who have wildly different personalities and interests and somehow have wonderful relationships for years. I’ve read that Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were fast friends. Nixon went to China. The platypus exists. All these things confound conventional wisdom.
And perhaps the ultimate example of a baffling incongruity is the relationship between God and man.
God is eternal, we are finite and mortal. God is all-powerful, we are subject to all sorts of weaknesses, limitations and infirmities.
God is all holy, we are prone to the whole gamut of sins: pride, anger, sloth, gluttony, envy, lust and greed. God knows all, we struggle to learn and forget much.
So, why should an all-powerful, ever-living, all-knowing, all-holy God have any interest in us?
The answer, of course, is love.
Of all the attributes of God — all powerful, ever-living, all-holy — the most important for us to remember is this: God is love. How do we know? It has been revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
The Son of God emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, being born in our likeness.
Having taken on our nature, with all its suffering and the burdens of sin, He humbled Himself further, suffering even death for us, death on a cross, so that through the death of the Sinless One, the power of sin and death might be destroyed.
“God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Without love, God would take no notice of us, indeed. He would never have created us in the first place.
Poor sinners and doubters that we are, we may sometimes think, ‘Why would God die for me? Why would God forgive me? Why would God love me?’
At times of doubt like this, we should remember that the answer to these questions is not in us, but in God. It is God’s nature to love, and especially to love the fallen and poor and sinful and lowly.
It may seem stranger than a Marine colonel with a toy poodle for a pet, but the all-seeing, all-holy, all-powerful, ever-living God loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.
Let us give Him thanks, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Father Roger Morgan is pastor of St. Andrew Catholic Church, 3501 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. He can be reached at 843-448-5930.