October 16, 2012
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Does Sandy Hook need a makeover?”
This intriguing headline in the newspaper caught my eye. This spit of land in New Jersey is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, which also extends into Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, three of the five boroughs that make up New York City.
I’ve been to the beach at Sandy Hook many times, and also wrote an article about the former Nike missile base there (tours are conducted there by a stalwart band of ex-Army volunteers). So any mention of the place stirs my interest.
It seems that the National Park Service plans to make some changes to Gateway and Sandy Hook over the next two decades—leasing buildings out to restaurants and lodging, adding campsites and increasing beach access, according the article in The Star Ledger. But there’s another alternative, too—leave it the way it is. The plans have been in the making for three years, and now the Park Service is seeking public input.
On the heels of this development, Star Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno wrote more about the park to accompany a photo spread. “Hedonism and history,” he mused, “while not perfect together [a play on New Jersey’s tourism motto: ‘New Jersey and You—perfect together’], peacefully coexist at Sandy Hook.” He was referring to the “clothing-optional” beach there, which shares the park with the remains of Fort Hancock, America’s oldest lighthouse and oceanic research centers. Poison ivy, too, which I learned (from reading this article) is the most prevalent dune plant there. “Without poison ivy, Sandy Hook would wash away,” says one information panel at the visitor center, according to Di Ionno. That really interests me, because I’m highly allergic to the plant, and just recently had to take steroids to clear up an inadvertent brush with it. Next time I’m at Sandy Hook, I will be very, very vigilant…
I tend to think of the word “makeover” as something like a new wardrobe, or a heavy application of makeup by someone trying to get me to buy new products. And I guess that’s what the Park Service means for Sandy Hook—new amenities, a changed look. Not altering its basic features—the poison ivy’s gotta stay, I guess—just livening it up a bit.
If you’re anything like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time fixating on your outward appearance, sometimes wishing for a dramatic makeover to transform some part that doesn’t look as good as you’d like. If only I spent as much time on the inner me! I’m challenged by God’s words to the prophet Samuel, who was sent to the household of a man named Jesse, to anoint a replacement for King Saul. Before each of Jesse’s sons were paraded before Samuel, God told him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
And what is in our hearts? A look into my own isn’t pretty. Lying? Nobody taught me how—I managed to pick it up all by myself, from an early age. Selfishness? I practice that on a daily basis. Rage? Ditto (just watch me behind the wheel). Malevolent thoughts? Have you got a couple of hours for me to tell you about all the people who have gotten on my last nerve, including the ones I’d love to tell off?
Uh huh. Don’t tell me you can’t relate!
God knows all about that inner ugliness, those “secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21, Hebrews 4:12), which He calls sin and which can’t help but spill out, no matter how tight a lid we try to keep on them. Jesus nailed in it Luke 6:45: “For out of the overflow of [the] heart, [the] mouth speaks.”
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,” King David cried out after an especially sinful period in his life, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Today, God still listens to that penitential prayer—and He still answers. “Let Me give you a new heart! Let Me dwell there so My love and My power overcome all that meanness and hurt” (Ezekiel 36:26, John 14:23, Ephesians 3:14-19).
That kind of makeover has made all the difference in my life—and it will in yours, too.