Our Stories: Unforgettable Peace

peace

This is another Our Stories post. I pray you look back at your own life and see God.

I was in my early twenties when I went with a group of friends to Panama City Beach for spring break. (That’s the actual photograph from way back when!)  I’d packed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bunch of Pop-Tarts I heated by placing on top of their foil wrappers and leaving them in the sun.

We spent our days lying on beach towels, soaking up the sun, and feeding potato chips to a bunch of ravenous seagulls. And when the sun slipped into the water and evening came, we walked from club to club, enjoying the neon lights and the sounds of the darkened gulf waters rushing to the shore beyond the clubs and hotels.

It was a time in my life when I knew of God, but I didn’t really know Him. (Know what I mean?)

God was Someone far away and if I’m being honest, Someone I rarely thought about. I was in college, and I was too busy drinking coffee with friends while cramming for tests all night and heading out to parties that took place on the weekends.

Yep. I was just too busy for God.

But there was a moment during spring break when I felt so drawn to go to the beach by myself. All of my friends were back at the hotel getting ready to go out, and it seemed everyone else had the same idea because the beach was deserted; no sunbathers or Frisbee throwers anywhere.

I wore a pair of cutoffs, a white t-shirt, and of course, no shoes. The sand was still warm as it squished between my toes and the wind was strong as it swept my hair away from my face. There was no one on either side of me on that long stretch of beach. Hotels, beach houses, and busy streets were at my back.

I moved closer to the water and sat down on the sand, wrapping my arms around my legs. The sun dipped into the water as if it were a paint brush someone wanted to rinse off, and the sky ignited and changed moment by moment into different shades of oranges that stretched into the dark night.

I could breathe here. There was such peace. There were no tests or deadlines, no rushing to keep up with everyone or to go out.

It was just me sitting on the beach with my toes buried in the sand and the fading sun kissing me goodnight.

I would spend the next decade or so trying to find that peace again, searching for that feeling like I belonged, like I fit; a place where I could breathe deeply again. I wanted to “just be me” again and feel good about it.

When I finally found it, I realized it wasn’t the tickle of the wind on my skin or the way the sun dissolved into the water. It wasn’t the warmth of the sand or the idea of being alone on the beach.

That peace I felt was God’s presence. He was drawing me closer to Him. He wanted me to begin knowing Him. He allowed me to escape for a moment and sit down right in the middle of the beautiful painting He’d created just for me. All so I could experience His presence and His unforgettable peace.

Peace that soothes me to this day and makes me smile because now I know God. Now I know that He was sitting with me in the sand, His arm around me as I leaned into Him.

Thank you, Lord.

Your turn for reflection:

Do you remember a time when you were drawn away from the crowd to a quiet place where you experienced peace?

Can you look back and see that God was working in your life before you really knew Him?

 

When God is Silent

silent

Have you ever cried out to God only to be met by silence? You don’t get any answers, you don’t feel peace, and the only sound you hear is your own sobbing as your heart breaks.

Maybe you’ve even wondered, “Where are you, God? Don’t you care about me? Don’t you see what’s happening?”

I once asked God those very words. (For those of you who know me, you’ve probably heard this story. What can I say? I’m still learning from it.)

Years ago, I had questions for God, life-altering questions, so I went in our backyard to get away from everyone and everything. I needed silence. I needed to hear God in that silence.

Only God didn’t answer me. So I asked Him to let me see a butterfly if He cared about me. Just a glimpse, Lord. I looked all around our yard, in the trees that surrounded me, and in the grass. No butterfly.

I felt as if something inside of me had completely broken.

Days went by and I was so discouraged and deeply depressed. No one could help or offer any comfort. This was between God and me. And how I saw it during that painful silence, God let me down.

At that time, I had a job cleaning the church we attended. I grabbed my cleaning supplies and started on the outside of the glass doors. I noticed a moth trapped in a spider’s web on the door frame and did my best to rescue it from that monster. (What can I say? I really don’t like spiders.)

But when I finally pulled the moth free, I realized it wasn’t a moth at all: On my fingertip, I felt the gentle “pop” of a newborn, monarch butterfly’s wings as they opened for the first time; the dark, ginger-colored wings were still wet.

I held that butterfly for a long time. Watching in awe as it opened and closed its wings to dry them.

In that moment, God spoke so lovingly, so perfectly to my heart that I won’t ever forget it. He was telling me in a very real, very tangible way that He does hear me, He sees me when I cry, and He loves me enough to teach me the hard lessons.

The hard lesson of waiting on God. The hard lesson that sometimes He is silent.

Perhaps you’re there today, waiting on God, asking for an answer, and you’re being met by His silence.

My dear friend, please understand that God loves you more than you and I can possibly understand. You see, He is preparing you and teaching you to trust Him. He’s growing your faith in Him.

Just like the butterfly needs the struggle of emerging from the chrysalis in order to strengthen its wings so it can fly, we need the struggle to strengthen our faith so we learn to trust God more deeply as we walk closer to Him.

And when we walk closer to God, we learn the difference between His silence when we’ve disobeyed Him and sinned and need to repent, and when He is using the silence to teach us.

So if you’re hurting today and there is silence at the end of your prayer, don’t stop seeking God’s truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything, any sin that is keeping you from a closer walk with God.

And if you find silence at the end of that request as well, then remember God’s silence can be a temporary tool that teaches you about your loving Heavenly Father who never leaves you.

Even when He is silently holding you.

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b NLT.)