O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth
You have set Your glory above the heavens
From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise
To silence the foe and the avenger
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers
The moon and the stars which You have set in place
What is man that you are mindful of Him?
This awe-inspiring psalm came to mind as I stood on the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on New Years Eve under a starlit sky on a windy but warm night.
To a Northerner like me, it was an amazing experience to be able to walk on the beach in shorts on New Years Eve in what ought to be the middle of winter. Here in the Dominican Republic, although still in the Northern Hemisphere, we are close enough to the equator that there is little difference between summer and winter.
This has been a week of amazing grace. My mission for this week was to see my son Reuben (the third of my four children, but the second to marry) wedded to Jessica Cole, the love of his life. Not only that, but I had the privilege of helping to officiate at the wedding. The Lord provided for our whole family to share in the wedding festivities and have a week-long tropical vacation – a first for all of us on the Hartgerink side of the wedding.
All of this was in the back of my mind as I stood on the beach on New Years Eve. A few hundred feet away, a band played Latino music and champagne and other beverages flowed freely as a noisy crowd of people celebrated the New Year under stars and palm trees in the open-air hotel lobby and adjoining patio. It is good to celebrate, but I needed to get away and clear my head. The week had been full of impressions and swirling thoughts. Earlier that day several of us had gone on a day-long tour of the Dominican countryside, including a sugar-cane plantation, rum-making, cigar-making, a coffee and cacao plantation. We had seen much poverty – not absolute destitution, but poverty all the same – as hard-working people strive to improve their living conditions. Yet these same people are friendly, cheerful and seemingly happy for the most part. On the way back from the tour I had the opportunity to share my hope in Jesus with our tour guide, and leave him what I hoped was a generous tip to encourage him. It was a small gesture, but I couldn’t get away from the realization that even though the tourist trade has brought newfound prosperity to the Dominican Republic, we the tourists are still greatly privileged as compared to those who live on the island and serve us while we are here. I know that the Lord directed Marion and me to bring our family here for this wedding feast, and help Reuben and Jess fulfil their dream. This is an amazing privilege and a very practical example of God’s totally unmerited favour. At the same time, I also know that with privilege comes responsibility. I see that tourism does bring great benefit to many on this island. But still my heart cries out with questions. Why such inequity? How much can I do about it? When will everything be made right?
I’ve been reading the Bible and following the Lord’s ways long enough to know His answers to these questions. The inequity is a result of man’s sin. I cannot do everything about it, but I can do something. Everything will be made right when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom. In the meantime, as one of his followers I am called to do whatever is in my power to practice justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.
I know the answers – but still my heart cries out in protest at the inequities. My walk on the beach helped to put everything in perspective for me. The God who made the seas that pound these sandy shores also made every nation on the earth, and the starry heavens that fill my heart with awe and wonder. He keeps faith forever and He is not slow in keeping his promise. He is waiting for many to come to repentance, but the day of the Lord will come, and on that day every secret deed will be brought into judgment, the motives of every heart will be laid bare, and all things will be set right.
This thought causes me to tremble, both with the fear of the Lord and also with holy anticipation. This is my heart’s cry — for Reuben and Jess as they begin their marriage;for myself, Marion and our children and their families;for the Cole family, for all those our lives touch, and indeed for all those who walk on the earth : that we will live our lives in the light of His coming – for this is our only true and lasting hope, for 2011 and all the years and ages to come.