(Originally posted on our former blog site on 5/8/2013)
Today is my first day back in “routine”, so to speak, after a wonderful beach vacation with my little family. You would think by looking at my third cup of coffee (so far) that it wasn’t much of a vacation, but I assure you it was WONDERFUL!
Jacob was teething and kept us up most nights. Michael exercised his right to say “no” and I exercised my right to parent which meant keeping him inside the trailer for hours at a time. We spent hours in a car and even more hours applying sunscreen to our very pale second child (ok, that might be an exaggeration but we did spend quite some time to adequately cover every inch of his body).
We missed every whale and dolphin siting, and gave up our almost comfortable bed so our friends could stay with us a few nights. But all of that is nothing compared to the joy that filled my heart as I saw my parents stand up from inside of the trailer as we walked in, scaring the daylights out of me, or my boys laughing and running alongside the ocean as if it carried away all of their cares and worries with the tide. There is something so calming, so peaceful about the sound of the waves, the smell of salt in the air, or the feeling of the sun on your skin.
Vacation. Glorious vacation.
On our last night at the beach we took a walk with our little family along the shoreline. Michael promptly began his search for sand dollars left by the ocean solely for him to find. We came across quite a few along the way. All broken of course. The many, many broken ones didn’t deter him from running up and down the water’s edge examining each lump in the sand with hopeful expectation.
At the end of our trip he had found three. And when I say that he found three what I really mean is that I very subtly guided his footsteps so that he would notice the whole shells that I had already seen. I am thankful there were some to find, it is hard to explain to a four year old boy that he must give up his quest without anything to show for it.
I am sure we have all been in that situation where we have been searching or waiting for something for hours, weeks, or even days without any luck. It is saddening. Disheartening. Even painful.
As a junior in high school on that very same beach, I remember walking up and down the shoreline wanting so badly to just find one whole sand dollar that I could take home to remind me of our trip. Every time I thought I had found one, I would turn it over to see that the birds had gotten to it first. It was irritating at first and then that irritation turned into frustration. I finally (almost jokingly) said out loud to the heavens, “God, why can’t I just find one?”
I am not one to say that God speaks to me audibly every day, but in that moment I could almost hear Him say to me- “I didn’t come for the whole ones, I came for the broken.”
I stopped dead in my tracks.
Uncertain of what had just happened I wondered, was that Him? Was He listening? Was He listening to me this whole time as I hopelessly walked back and forth frustrated with my lack of finding anything that met my standards?
Those words made such an impact on me that I stopped what I was doing, and began picking up the broken pieces. He was teaching me in that moment. Teaching me about what it meant to care for the brokenness of people, to not judge or hate or look away but extend a hand or shoulder to cry on. To be the light. To show the love of God. Because He didn’t send His son to an earth filled with perfect people, He sent His son to an earth filled with brokenness.
Sometimes what we are looking for is not what we are meant to find.
God’s ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). He can see the whole picture, He sees what we cannot see, and in His goodness very subtly He guides our footsteps so that we notice what He already knows to be true. We look for happiness in experiences and He shows us true happiness found in a relationship with Him. We look for love and acceptance from people and He shows us that we already have His love and acceptance. We look for purpose in everyday life and He shows us that we were created with purpose for everyday life. We are looking for the wrong things. We are getting frustrated and tired because we have spent too much time looking for the wrong things.
The next party or high may make you happy for a moment but it will not last. The acceptance of the popular crowd or butterflies in your stomach from a boyfriend may make you feel loved for a moment but it will not last. The job that takes up 40-50 hours of your week may make you feel full of purpose for a moment but it will not last.
Maybe, just maybe, you are looking for the wrong thing.
Let’s lift up our eyes. It is bigger than all of this my friends. Let’s not get so discouraged with broken shells that we miss the lesson altogether.
For me, if I would have found what I was looking for that day it would have gotten broken, forgotten and thrown away by now. But the image of the broken sand dollars scattered on the shores, being stepped on every day by careless and unknowing people, picked at by birds scouring the ground for food, is something that I remember so vividly even to this day. It is where my journey and heart for ministry began. Where I found my purpose, not my job, for waking up every morning. Broken people. In all of my strength and hot glue I could never restore the wholeness that was taken from those shells. But everyday I wake up praying that I can help others get a little closer to the knowledge of a loving God who is the only one who can put a bunch of Humpty Dumpty people like us together again.
Take a deep breath. Lift up your eyes. Take a step back. And ask God what you might be missing. Who knows, it could just lead you to the edge of a vast ocean… staring down at some broken shells.
Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.
Matthew 16:52-54 Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you suppose that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will immediately provide Me with more than twelve legions [more than 80,000] of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must come about this way?