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?

 

The Empty Chair

empty-chair

A writing teacher once taught that to create a fictional character you have to peel away the layers to get to the heart of the person. Like an onion.  Isn’t that how we are as real human beings?

We have a layer we show to the world. You know, the face you show in a busy grocery store or at a crowded department store.  The one that says, “I may nod at you or smile, but don’t talk to me.  I’m in a hurry.”  We have another layer we show to acquaintances, those we see from time to time and maybe ask, “How are you?” as we rush in the opposite direction hoping they don’t really want to talk.  Another layer we reserve for family and friends.  We let them in but only so far as to share what we’re comfortable sharing, but we hold back the rest because it’s guarded.  It’s too personal, too fragile to let anyone see.   It’s like this tiny room we have inside of us that we keep hidden because rejection of any kind here would be nothing short of annihilation.  So we quietly lock the door and pretend we don’t hear if someone knocks.

But God gave you that tiny room.  He is very aware of its location and everything inside.  Maybe that scares you because you’ve stashed some big-time mistakes under the floorboard or crumbled up a few regrets and tossed them in the corner, and you’re afraid He’s just going to drop by sometime.  Or perhaps you think it’s such a mess in there, you think you’ve really screwed everything up, and God wouldn’t dare step inside because it’s so NOT perfect.

You couldn’t be more wrong.  First, He will never come in uninvited.  Never.  He is so polite He always waits for an invitation.  And second, He designed that room.  And maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but it came furnished with two chairs.  One for you.  One for Him.

So when you’re exhausted and you come here to escape the world and all that’s wearing you down, not only do you get to rest, but you can hang out with God here. That’s what He wants, to take a seat on that empty chair and spend time with you.  Don’t worry about the mess.  Just unlock the door and let Him into that room, into that heart of yours.  Listen.  He’s knocking…and waiting for you to answer.

“Look at me. I stand at the door.  I knock.  If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”  (Revelation 3:20 The Message.)