Slip Off the Flip-Flops

flip flops

My daughter and I were hurrying home from the store after finding the right sunblock and snacks for our upcoming trip to North Carolina when we passed a boy sitting by the side of the road selling lemonade.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. It’s summer. The kids are out there patiently waiting as they try to sell lemonade and cookies wrapped in plastic wrap. But for me, it was a very big deal and a painful reminder.

Twenty years ago, I’d crammed a few songs and some clothes in a suitcase, tossed it in the back of my pickup, and began my journey of becoming a songwriter in Nashville. (Spoiler alert: It never happened!) I was frantic, leaving later than I had planned, and knew if I stayed on track with my timeline I could miss rush hour for a few major cities.

I was focused on the time, remembering the route I was going to take, and hoping I had everything I needed. And that’s when I noticed her: A little girl wearing a floral dress selling lemonade on a quiet street, her eyes wide and hopeful.

But I was in a big hurry. So I didn’t stop. I. Kept. Driving.

Fast forward twenty years to the boy selling lemonade as I’m rushing home with my daughter. I slowed down when I saw him, realized there was a place to pull over, and hesitated to stop. Why? Because we were leaving for North Carolina soon and I had a thousand things to do. So what did I do?  I. Kept. Driving.

When I shook my head and scolded myself for not stopping, my daughter spoke up from the passenger seat. “You can always turn around.”

The longer I kept driving, the harder it was going to be to find a good place to turn around. “No,” I said. “We’ve got to get home.”

But then I remembered the little girl I saw all those years ago. Those eyes, wide and hopeful.

I took the next light, turned, missed the street the boy was on, circled back around, and finally parked the car right in front of him to buy one big glass of lemonade for my daughter. The boy explained what he was raising money for, and a smile stretched across his face when I gave him a little extra. But when I got back into the car, I think my smile was bigger. It felt so good to tell my nagging, hurry-up attitude to take a seat in the back and be quiet.

Days later, my hurry-up attitude was banished from tagging along to North Carolina, but my busy-busy mindset jumped in the front seat with me. There was so much to do, so much fun lingering in the air, and so many memories to make. There were melt-your-heart grandbaby kisses, warm hugs from family we don’t see often enough, cooking hot dogs and hamburgers and potatoes larger than a small dog, and watching my daughter and husband tackle the ocean together.

But where was God in my every day?

Well, I was busy. We had plans and lots to do, and I was enjoying myself. So God sat, like the little girl with those anticipating and hopeful eyes, and waited for me to stop. He waited for me to spend time with Him, if only for a moment, and open His Word. But: I. Kept. Driving.

Of course I thanked Him for time with family, for the massive expanse of the ocean, and the excitement and thrill of touching a stingray; the feel resembling a squishy, wet mushroom. And I thanked Him for keeping us all safe.

I guess you could say I smiled at Him as I drove by. But again, I kept driving.

You and I can keep driving and ignore those hopeful eyes, those invitations to spend time with God. Or we can recognize when we mess up and turn around and do whatever it takes to slow down and spend time with Him. Real time. Not just a “thanks” we toss out the window at Him like a quarter.

We have the opportunity to have a real moment with God, to slip off our flip-flops and sink our toes in the sand and allow the waves to wash over our feet again and again, feeling ourselves shrink, sensing our smallness in the presence of something so grand, so wonderful and so mighty as we stand in awe, as we take it all in, as we realize the magnitude and are moved to tears at the beauty found not in the ocean, but in the presence of the One who created it: Our Holy God.

And He’s just waiting to spend time with us.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV.)