It was one of those gloomy mornings that seemed to be mirroring my disposition. It was like my soul, trying so very hard to emerge from the fog, yet it couldn’t escape the grayness that enveloped it. The air was thick and heavy, capturing every sound and filtering it before allowing it to fall on my ears. It’s strange how every sound on the water becomes so distinct and clear as the fog bank becomes some huge audio filter, amplifying the smallest of sounds.
My eyes caught movement and they drifted from the rolling surf to the short stretch of beach below me. It was a little bird with long skinny legs and a curved beak to match. He was running all over the sand, poking here and there. It seemed as if he was playing tag with the waves as they crashed onto the beach. He would chase the receding waves while looking for morsels they left in their wake. His tracks in the sand made it look like there were 50 little birds rather than just this nervous little fellow.
He seemed so adept at playing this game. It was as if he had eyes in the back of his head. Every time the ocean tried to swat him with a wave he just darted up higher on the beach and then chased it back down to the surf line. On and on this went … the same little dance over and over. As I was about to re-enter my foggy mood I noticed that my little friend had spotted a half opened clam at his feet.
He literally jumped up in the air as he flipped the clam over and began to feast on the contents. For the first time I noticed that he wasn’t moving at all … he was locked into the moment. Well, I thought, at least his morning wasn’t a total loss. Nice big fat clam, a dash of salt … he had it made. He was having the time of his life with that clam and he was totally engrossed in the process. If fact so much so that he forgot where he was.
By the time he awoke from his reverie it was already just inches above his head. It wasn’t very big, but then neither was he. For the briefest of moments I could almost see the question on his face … do I have enough time to take another bite. Too late! It hit my little friend and knocked him on his feathered behind. It rolled him over and over in the sand as the ocean once again regained possession of the clam.
I wasn’t sure if he was going to get back up on his feet. What a sight. That little bird shaking the sand off his feathers while mournfully watching his clam roll out of sight. At least he learned his lesson without being pulled out to sea … well, not so fast!
At that moment an interesting thing happened.
He was still shaking the sand out of his feathers as he quickly chased the very next wave back into the ocean. He had hardly skipped a beat. Why, I thought, would he take such a chance when right there on the sand not 5 feet from him was a piece of seaweed with a cluster of mussels laying on top! All he had to do was walk a few feet in the other direction and … bon apitito! But he wouldn’t take his eyes off that surf line. Trip after trip he just kept it up. It was as if he was looking and waiting for the ocean to give him his clam back or at least one like it. It was non-stop … run in … look … watch the wave … run out.
As I was about to return to my inward reflecting the Lord gently spoke over the pounding surf. What do you see?
What do I see? Lots of fog, a deserted beach and cold water! Look at the sand? Yeah … just a bunch of bird tracks going nowhere. Watch.
Just then a huge wave crashed up much higher than the others and washed back into the ocean. What do you see? Well, the same thing I saw when I looked last time.
Look again. Okay … fog, surf and sand? What’s missing? The bird’s gone. What else? His tracks are washed away and the sand is completely smooth.
Yes, that’s what’s the world does when you try and play games with it.
Whoa! As I thought about that I began to get His drift. When Christians try keeping one foot in the world and one foot in Him they are playing a dangerous game. The world is constantly holding out the promise of tantalizing morsels while at the same time just waiting to overwhelm you and drag you in. My little friend was lucky. He lost his morsel and only got dumped on his fanny and covered with sand. It could have been worse!
How many times have I watched a brother or sister play this dangerous game? Not wanting to let go of the world’s treasures while at the same time running to Him on Sunday. The odds aren’t in their favor for sooner or later they are going to get dumped and be covered in the mess they made.
The world is just like the ocean. It’s never the same from day to day. One time it’s smooth as glass and you can wade way out beyond the surf line. The next day it is boiling and the surf is pounding … relentlessly! And still we go in … why?
I think, more often than not, because it holds the promise of the unseen things. Things we think we need. Things we think we can’t live without. Things we’ve lost or left behind that we want back. Like my little friend, how soon he forgot his “near death” experience. All because of the clam he so desperately wanted. Are you struggling with the world and something in it that keeps calling you back? Is it something you want or something you are hoping to discover? Something that you think you can only find in the world?
As I watched the waves continue to wash up on the beach I was lost in thought about how fleeting life is and how the things in this world that we think are so important are simply washed away when we die. Like all traces of that little bird … gone … simply gone without a single mark in the sand. At that moment the Lord whispered in my ear; Not everything. What do you mean, not everything? What’s left? As I looked up and down the shoreline I couldn’t see anything in either direction. At your feet.
As my eyes swept the beach below me I saw it again. It was still there and it hadn’t been moved. It still looked the same; completely untouched. I chuckled to myself. If he had just walked over to the mussels on the seaweed he would still be eating and not getting tossed about in the surf. And he probably wouldn’t be somewhere down the beach still looking for his clam. I knew a lesson was just a moment away.
The food I provide doesn’t require you to get into the world to eat it. Yes, it’s in the world but it’s not of the world. I will always provide food for my people that the world cannot take away. But you have to look where I am to find it. Your life in the world is like the sand. The world will quickly erase your comings and goings as the tide smoothes out the sand. When my people live in the world they become like the little bird. They dart here and there, looking for gratification in the wake of every receding wave. It’s only a matter of time until they become so engrossed in their little morsel that they ignore the approaching wave. The enemy is a master at putting out the right morsel … just at the edge of the surf at first and then a little farther out the next time.
On the other hand, if they will begin to look to my hand for provision they will find themselves far removed from the turmoil of the world. I will see that they are not tossed and turned about by every circumstance. In time they will find the allure of the world growing very dim … the sand of their life will be replaced.
I smiled as my mind began to consider the “clams” in my life. The times I had tried to find a satisfying morsel in the world. How much more satisfying to stay away from its entanglements and the ever present results of sin. I thought about the little bird’s tracks. It made me sad in a way. We go through this life and what we do is just washed away …soon forgotten. How can we be in this world and not of it while still leaving something behind? Look up. Look up? Where? All I see is fog. Listen.
It had been there all the time but I wasn’t paying any attention. I was lost in the cares of this world and had tuned it out. The sound of the foghorn was clear and persistent. It’s like my voice … steadily calling out in the fog to those who will hear.
As I peered in the direction of the sound I saw it for the first time. The rotating light pierced the mist and seemed to be married to the repetitive sound of the foghorn.
That’s you. You are in the world but you are not on the sand. That lighthouse is solidly anchored on a rock. The boiling sea cannot move it nor the wind and rain. Its light is a beacon, a guide to those lost on the sea. You will find that while the world will wash away your footprints and the sand castles you build, it can never wash away your light. The light within you is too bright to be extinguished, but it can be covered. When you spend time picking along the shoreline you effectively put a cover over your light. Be a beacon to the world. Choose to remain separate and securely rest in Me.
I wondered … how many times in my life had my light been covered when someone was hearing the foghorn? How many times had I been picking along the shoreline when someone was drowning in the surf? How many times had I been so engrossed in some worldly tidbit when someone was being carried away by a rip current? In reading my thoughts I heard Him and could see Him smile as I walked back up the beach …
Your life counts in this world because I count in this world. Your footsteps may be washed away but the hearts that you touch are indelibly changed. The sand castles you choose not to build will be replaced by the souls that see the light in you. We are in the rescuing business, you and Me. Stand with me on the rock … we have work to do … a light to shine … right here in this world.