What You Don’t Know about the Woman on the Beach
I am often afraid. Like “a belly on simmer” afraid. It’s not uncommon for me to awaken from a dream with fuzzy edges, blanketed in disquiet.
Even in the last days of 41, sometimes my skin doesn’t fit. It wears like a borrowed jacket.
And it’s a heavy endeavor to believe that good lies ahead after a season of tempest.
They arrest me and pretend to hug while strangling. With a smile. They often stalk my solitude and prey on silence.
So, naturally, they stowed away in the side pocket of my duffel for a writing weekend. With a suitcase full of books, provisions for days, and all the beach accouterment, I didn’t notice the extra weight.
While most of my time was coated in a tranquil hush, pierced only by rowdy sunrises…
There were instances of lonely unease. Because the quiet that makes room for focus and wonder can be hijacked by lies. Have you been that hostage?
So I took a walk. To breathe fresh air and to feed wonder and to wet my toes and to watch dusk steal the remains of the day, and this happened.
And just like that, the God of the universe had an audible voice.
I forgot to get her name. To ask where she was from. And then a week later, a dear friend sent me a link to the following blog post. “I’m pretty sure it’s about you!” she said.
The Woman on the Beach
Trevor and I arrived on Saturday to the beach for a week alone. It had been an absolutely awful, stressful week. Stressful to the point where I wondered why I hadn’t had an anxiety attack yet. After an afternoon of getting our groceries together and settling into our home for the week, we decided to take a walk down the beach. We walked and talked for a while, then I said that we should sit. So Trevor picked out the perfect spot on a dune, up away from the water and the wet sand. We sat and we talked while the coastal breeze blew our hair all over the place. We talked about how much we miss our kids and all the things they’d love here (because isn’t that pretty much all parents do on vacation alone??). Then we took a selfie- because we did.
As we were sitting on our dune, talking, this woman sat down in front of us. She was far enough away, that I couldn’t see anything about her, aside from the fact that she was a “she” and was sitting facing the ocean. As Trevor and I talked, I couldn’t stop glancing over at her. Before long, I realized that she was crying. Every now and then, she’d grab her own sleeve and wipe her face. Then and there, an intense need grew in me- I had to talk to this woman. Beyond what I could have ever drummed up on my own, I knew God was prompting me to say something to her. I had to tell her. I immediately told Trevor “we have to talk to her.” He had the reaction typical of a sane person and said “what?!!” I told him “she’s crying. I am supposed to talk to her.” He sat there, obviously about to offer up an excuse, when she stood up. And I jumped. Instead of making an excuse to stay seated and comfortable like I would almost always do, I pursued this person, step after step, a woman compelled. I said “ma’am??” she glanced and kept walking (poor girl, probably thought I was nuts). Then I said “Ma’am??” again and she stopped. I said, “I know this is weird, but I just had to tell you that you are not alone. God is with you in this.” I told her the very words that filled my head and that I knew were for her. Her face just exploded in a smile and she said, “that is so cool!” and laughed. Then she said “So I take it you’re a believer?” I said “yes, I am.” Then she told us, “ I am called to ministry. I was just sitting here- I am writing an online bible study for the fall- and I just said ‘God, please just speak to me.’ That is so cool,” she laughed, as tears welled up in her eyes, and I knew that right then, I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Thank you, Jesus, that I didn’t ignore that still small voice and the forceful push of a God that loves me, you and that woman crying on the beach. Our God is huge. He is amazing. And his attention to detail blows my mind. Never doubt that you can be a part of something bigger than yourself.
He is real.
And affectionate. Personal. And powerful. I know the supernatural seems crazy flaky. I know that you question God’s character. But there IS a loving God. Who has been so misrepresented by…………………………us. There has been a time – in ministry – when I gave up on Him. When I railed against Him through gritted teeth and squinted eyes.
Because I believed the lies that hijack the quiet.
And when I crumbled in a heap under the weight of it, He filled the vacuum of my despair with His compassion. He whispered in my ear…
I love you in the ditch, Cookie, as much as I ever have.
Because you’re mine.
I never left.
This is relationship. Not religion.
He is not distant. Aloof. Angry. Or formal.
We are in real danger of being so bound by what we can see and hear and taste and touch at the expense of what we can’t. For all my tall wedge-wearing, seventeen bangle-sporting, sassy mouth, all-put-together garbage, I’m a wobbly, scared farm girl whose only strength, integrity, and confidence is borrowed from my God.
The relationship more real to me than any I’ve experienced with people wearing skin.
How have you experienced His nearness in your life lately?
The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Acts 17:24-27 (HCSB)
Epilogue: Jessica and I connected on her blog and are now friends on social media.
[Title Image: Amarit Opassetthakul]