Somehow it creeps up on us bit by bit. The cumulative daily, dulling rut of commonness, the demands and expectations, the necessary to-do list, the unspoken, lingering, unresolved hurts and worries hovering over us like a dark cloud, blotting out the sun. Like the proverbial frog in a kettle, we realize that somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our sense of passion and joy.
Something restless inside starts to quietly protest – and rightly so, because we’re merely trudging through our days in a dreary, heart-deadening rut of thinking and being.
Is this the abundant life we were promised?
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)
When was the last time something beautiful stirred your soul and refreshed your perspective? If it’s been awhile, it’s not that soul-stirring beauty isn’t available to us, it’s because we’re not available to it.
I woke up on Sunday morning intending to get ready for church, but instead heard the quiet call beckoning me to the beach. Mind you – I’ve run to the beach before purely for escapism, to avoid what I didn’t want to deal with. But this morning wasn’t about escaping from anything. I was called to something. I was called back to my own heart and the heart of God.
I popped in one of my favorite worship CD’s to still my mind and get ready as I cruised on down the interstate to a beach known only to the locals, at the end of an island that feels like you’re far away from everything.
The weather was perfect.
The sky was blue.
The Gulf of Mexico was a turquoise-green with gentle white breakers rolling onto the sand.
I plopped my bag and towel in the sugar fine sand, slathered on half a bottle of sunscreen, then went walking. I had stilled my self enough to recognize His presence.
That day I got a glimpse of what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to walk with God in the Garden as I walked that beach, side by side with the Lord. You know what was especially great?
No agenda. Just walking. Just being present.
I strolled far enough down the beach to realize that I’d better start turning back, when I got the impression to look down. There was a shark tooth! I hadn’t found a shark tooth on that beach in several years since the storms went through and shifted things around.
I cradled that treasure in my hand, then noticed another! A few more steps, and there were three side by side on the sand.
Then I noticed the scallop shells. Hundreds of them everywhere I looked – perfectly formed, in all different sizes and colors. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was divinely orchestrated. After all, He knows I have a thing for scallop shells and shark teeth. It felt like a gift for showing up, just breathing, and being with Him. I had a sense He was enjoying this as much as I was.
It felt like God and I were two kids giggling together with each new tooth discovery. I kept asking Him for another, and soon I had a hefty handful of perfectly preserved teeth – some fossilized black, some amber colored, some small, some medium-sized, but all different.
As we strolled back toward where I’d left my towel and bag in the sand, I casually suggested to God, “Ok, maybe just one more”.
Right then, I looked up and noticed a man and woman approaching from the other direction in that slow motion, half bent posture of beach treasure hunting. The man’s footsteps caught my eye, and as he passed, it felt like the Lord motioned to me to look right where he had stepped.
Laying on top of the sand, in plain view next to the man’s footprint, was a shark tooth the size of a quarter!
I could almost hear the Lord chuckle.
He refreshed my soul that afternoon, with the beauty of the ocean, and the beauty of His presence. I felt a deep sense of awe and appreciation. I felt secure and loved in the middle of the chaos and uncertainty of life. I needed it.
Funny, but for the next couple days, the issues I’d been stressing over no longer felt quite as overwhelming. The mental fog that had been dulling my senses and thwarting my proactive thought processes lifted. The next steps I had been trying to figure out presented themselves in a clear, common sense, why of course sort of way.
Sometimes only beauty can bring comfort and rest to our heart and mind. It doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances we find ourselves in, but it changes us in the midst of those circumstances, and that makes all the difference.
Sometimes all it takes is to just step away for even 15 minutes, plug in your earbuds, and pull up a YouTube video of a crackling fireplace, or birds singing, or rain falling on a tin roof, or ocean waves rolling up on the sand on a Caribbean beach somewhere. Just breathe. Just watch and listen. Just be present.
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to play hooky – not to run away from something, but to run toward something? Something beautiful that speaks life to your soul. It’s there. You just have to make yourself available to receive it.