I was alone, but not really.
All around me couples walked together or people walked their dogs or groups whizzed by on their bikes. But nothing was breathing beside me. We can feel alone when we are the only one using the air around us.
So I walked long. Sand shifted under my treads, but it held fast, no sinking today.
The greatness of the Atlantic to my left, a row of beach houses to my right, the setting sun before me, and all the air one girl could need around me. I talked to the One who is always in those silent, air-filled places and I listened more.
Just days before i'd shared this same stretch of sandy beach with girlfriends all around. We'd biked miles together, giggling like girls, nothing to do but ride. Laughing, lovely, vibrant ladies --- prayer warriors they are --- fierce on the battlefield when arrows are flying --- peaceful joys in my life. They represent a great army of others. But we women don't usually think of ourselves as warriors do we?
We give birth, nurse life, tend wounds, and love deep.
We cook dinner, read stories, cuddle cryers, and scrub away the dirt of life.
We teach others what we've learned, and then let go of them so they can enjoy all they know.
Our very bodies are allowed to produce life, feed it, hold it, and grow it.
Then release it … and we do.
Any woman who can rise to that order ------ is a lovely, soft, effective warrior – she can cook dinner while she's sharpening her sword.
Her arsenal is found tucked between thin pages.
She doesn't need guns or knives, bullets or arrows.
She clings to the sword her Father said she could use.
These were my thoughts as I walked the shoreline.
Lost in thought and prayer --- and positioning myself to be “still” and listen for His more, I meandered alone between the incoming tide and the ribbon of water still lingering from morning's high tide. A visual of my aloneness with my Lord, water shielded me on both sides, the world could not come too near.
All that surrounded me had been authored by the One who was with me.
One can feel like royalty in those places.
Trees blocked the view of houses in the distance. No boats could be found on the water.
I was truly alone in the middle of His Stuff.
And the waters rolled in slowly, closing more and more off from me.
Ahead the tide had finally broken over the sandy belt I walked on, and the fresh ocean waters began renewing the stale waters of the trapped tide pools. My pathway closed.
A perfect visual of our lives.
I pressed on until my toe could touch the last dry ripple of sandy beach before the incoming tide covered it over. Turning quickly then I changed course, heading back where I had just come from.
Where I had been walking, the place I had thought was my way, closed before me and would no longer allow me safe passage.
Increasing my pace, I walked with purpose, not wanting the waters to catch me. But I looked behind me just in time to see the waves sweep over the place where I had been.
If I had stubbornly remained there ---- I would have been in trouble.
The waters came rushing in as if they were on assignment and they brought rip tides with them, their current was fierce.
What a picture of my life...
My path had seemed right for all those years, and for all those years it had been. Then, the tide changed, the path began to close, God was insistent on showing me the purpose He created me for, He would not let me miss the clarity of His call.
Many have asked me, “How do you know for sure when God is calling you?”
This walk on the beach is a visual picture of the answer to that question.
God doesn't carelessly let us “miss” what HE is calling us to do.
He doesn't play charades with us. He doesn't give us clues and hope we can guess what He's saying. He makes it clear. Undeniably clear. Moses couldn't say the bush was not burning. Jonah couldn't say the fish was not real. God makes it clear.
There are great mysteries that surround God's ways ---- His ways are not our ways and they never will be. He is God, we are not. We never will be, never could be, never should try to be. It's a big movement in this broken world now, people thinking they are their own god... but they aren't. They'll realize it too, when the only faithful One remains, and He reaches out His great hand to them. Oh He is good...
God's clarity in our lives is not a mystery. I use to think it was, I was wrong.
He opened the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through, and He closed it on those who pursued them.
He put a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide them through the desert.
God is clear in His communications to His kids. But He does sometimes wait until we are ready to actually listen before He will speak. He chooses when He speaks, and we must wait until He does. Patience, it grows in those waiting fields.
So how can we know when God is guiding us this way or that way?
How can we make sense of it when the course of our life seems to change right before our eyes?
We must be willing to pause...
pause long enough for the dust to settle, be still, ask Him, and wait...
We must be willing to wait on the Lord. Just as He has been willing to wait on us.
The problem is not that God no longer speaks ------ the problem is that we don't take the needed time to listen.
When we don't pause and respect that God is God and He will speak when He knows we are ready, we try and press the matter, we want to move ahead and make something happen. Then we find ourselves in the middle of swirling tidal waters pressing all around us with swift currents. We thought... but then... and now... and we are forced to a place of stillness that doesn't feel good. And we cry out, “Where are you God?!”
We blame Him for where we are, when where we are was not His doing.
My feet were set on a good path back on Mockingbird Road. I loved that path, it was sweet and simple and all I had dreamed of for our growing old days. The front porch swing was set in place for our old age years.
But slowly, ever so slowly, like advancing tide waters, that life seemed to close off from me.
My eyes could see that the way ahead was no longer ahead of me if I remained where I had always been.
So I stopped. We paused long. We asked. All the while the waters kept closing in on our plans for our future.
And He answered.
Then we knew.
We could ignore His answer and press ahead with our plans or we could change our course and obey.
The former would have brought tide waters swirling around us, for the Creator of the universe will not be ignored easily.
The latter would break us of ourselves and fill us with more of Him.
And there's a sweetness in that filling. ----- Perhaps it's what we are actually trying to get when we over buy, over eat, over plan, over control, over build, over work, over speak, over perform...
We know there is “more” --- but we get confused when trying to face the reality --- that the MORE we crave is found in the laying down of ourselves and the taking up of HIM. “He must increase, I must decrease” is how John puts it. (3:30)
But as for me and my Steve, we turned and obeyed and a new path opened before us.
Wisdom says, “don't look back, keep pressing on toward the goal you are called to”. But, I confess, i've looked back in my nostalgia. Just as I looked back to see the tidal waters swirling over the sandy shore. This trip home has forced me to walk the same pathways I use to walk before... but the tidal waters have changed the way they feel under my feet. And if I linger too long, my feet will get wet.
How frightening it would be to try and force my feet back on the old familiar pathway.
His mighty waters would surely wash me completely away.
Walking back on the shore line, the air around me seemed electric. There was an eagerness to walk in the way that had opened up for me. A silent pressing came from behind. And joy, real joy was present. She whispered, “Just look how much your Father loves you, He gives you a place to walk where the waters can not come near you.” There is joy and peace in obeying.
But as we obey, we can not fool ourselves into thinking we can have it our way.
We can't author a spec of it.
And that's the wall where too many children fall.
We want to have at least a degree of what we want.
We might be willing to give up some of what we want --- our plans, our dreams, our goals, our desires.
But when it comes to laying it ALL down, we shrink at the thought of having no control, no say, no input, no power.
But the definition of surrender is ---- “to abandon oneself entirely”, “to give in to”, “to give up or hand over”.
And when Jesus died on that cross, his hand was open ---- HE SURRENDERED ALL.
When God calls us to the MORE He created us for, we must surrender before we can fully obey.
That's the wall.
The waves come in on our plans, they wash away the space we would have filled if we had controlled them. They clear the way for another to walk there, as they also change the course of our safe passage.
Coming home has shown me much.
My old pathway has washed away. But there is a new one in its place. And I know I didn't build it.
My family is still my family. And they still love me sweetly. But they don't need me the way I use to think they did. God provides.
My friends are still my friends --- the ones that remained faithful still walk beside me even though the course of the pathway has changed completely. It's not the path that holds us steady, it's the heart.
My Father is still here too, and there, and everywhere. He's bigger and better and stronger and more faithful than my old path could have ever completely seen.
I reveled in the realization of it all as the waters closed in behind me and the waves sang steadily beside me.
I was alone... but not really.
Then as I watched the sun fading and turned to leave the beach, an old horse-shoe-crab shell caught my eye. Something whispered in my soul, calling me to pause and listen.
I knelt down beside the old shell and it came flooding into my heart... “someday you'll be just like me, you'll die too. All you do now will be added to the great efforts of the many who have obeyed the One who made us all. There will come a day when you won't be able to walk any path, not even the path He made you for. So choose carefully now, walk the right path while you can. Your days are numbered, they were before you were born. So your last one is already known in the Heavenlies. It will come and you'll be done. Your ride will end, you will come to the day when you'll have your last chance to obey, and it will be then that you'll be more thankful than ever, that you did. You chose the right path. And then, you'll be still... and wait... to go home. And whether you walked perfectly won't matter a smidgen. If you pleased others or disappointed them, won't matter a mite. The topic of conversation when you open your eyes above will be --- where was she found walking... did she stay true to the course... did she surrender and obey... was she found in the place He made her for... were her hands open??”
I sat by the old shell of the silent horse-shoe crab and heard the laughter of my girlfriends from the day before. I imagined the chubby feet of the three little ones I have loved and released running on sandy beaches between their daddy and me. I longed for the man my soul fits perfectly beside. And I looked at my feet.
Oh Lord... do what you must... but don't let my skin covered bones get in the way... place me soundly where You choose... use me up just like this old shell here... let's get the most out of this little vapor that I am... thank you for grace... thank you for your patient mercies every morning... may I be found walking and loving and serving and living on the path of your choosing... when you give me that last chance at obedience... leaving it all on the path... i'll finally come home with hands well practiced in being ---- open.
©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe
©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe