The other day a friend of mine stopped by my office and in the midst of our visiting we ended up talking about spiritual things. My friend was discouraged because his spiritual life was a bit stale. He hadn’t been spending any time with God and his best intentions to maintain a vibrant relationship with Jesus had come up empty. His inconsistency with the Lord left him discouraged and he was looking to me for an answer.
I had no answer except to say that “real life is no day at the beach”…or maybe it is.
I never tire of spending time on an ocean beach. I have spent many treasured hours on the beaches of the Oregon Coast and on the Eastern and Western coastal beaches of South Korea. Each ocean beach holds its own unique beauty; however, I find that there is one thing that the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, the Yellow Sea and the East Sea of Japan all have in common—the ebb and flow of the waves.
Within the realm of my physical, emotional, and spiritual life I experience something much like the back and forth movement of the waves. On some days I feel, live and do better than other days. At times my life surges with disciplined productivity and at other times I cannot muster the strength to stave off the demon of sloth. My life pattern and story is any thing but coherent.
I live in a culture that has little patience for a life walk that is characterized by “three steps forward and two steps back.” The world tells me that the equation for success in life is realized in a line graph that is ever climbing upwards. If I am not significantly achieving, I am failing. If I am not moving ahead, I am falling behind. If I’m not winning, I’m a loser.
I am so inconsistent in my journey with Jesus. At times I am green and growing—praying always, reading the Word regularly and living an obedient, disciplined life of love and service, yet at other times there is nothing in my life but self-focused, undisciplined, dried out stubble. I don’t understand this—but God does. I don’t have patience or tolerance for this—but fortunately, God does.
God is much more patient and understanding with us, than we are of ourselves. God knows that change is always happening and He knows that change is messy. We look at the irregular line graph of our life and we see failure. God looks at our life chart and He sees story.
Posted on the bulletin board, just above the computer screen in my office, is this verse:
“God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (MSG)
In other words, “God is faithful, even when we aren’t.” The God who created the oceans, beaches and the waves of the sea, understands the ebb and flow of our hearts, minds, our spirits and our lives. God understands that change is immanent and necessary in this spiritual adventure that we are living. He knows that life is messy.
If you have ever spent any time on an ocean beach you know that it is a place of constant movement and change. Sometimes the waves toss a sand dollar at your feet and sometimes the waves wash away your sand castle. You never know when you might happen upon a poisonous jellyfish quivering in the sand, or find the “perfect” seashell. Like our lives, the ocean beaches are always changing with the ebb and flow of the waves. At high tide our lives pulsate with power and productivity. At low tide the mess of our lives is laid bare for all to see.
We find it hard to live in these conditions, but God doesn’t. He made the world’s oceans and the world’s beaches and he made you and me. God understands the ebb and flow of our lives and in the midst of constant change he is present—right in the middle of the story.
Hang in there. Life is no day at the beach…or maybe it is.