Away from the commercialized condos and fast food joints of developed Gulf Shores, Alabama, beyond the beach houses of every color and shape and size, almost to mile 0, is where we found ourselves vacationing this week. I ran down the beach yesterday, even further from all of that than the road itself could have taken me, with warm waves rolling onto my bare feet as I tried to find the firmest sand for my steps. Here the water is more emerald than blue, but still very clear - I can see to my toes even standing waist-deep in water. That's a particular blessing when you're trying to avoid jellyfish and stingrays at your ankles and fish flopping over the crests of waves. The sand beaches are white, like other parts of the Gulf I've been to - but with more natural debris - grasses, driftwood, vines and plants shooting their paths and crawling toward the water. And it is so quiet. The rugged landscape has been a backdrop for several days of peace and rest in our lives, and as I ventured deeper down the coast yesterday I had at least an entire mile of the beach to myself.
I ran along the deserted coastline, occasionally alongside a flock of seagulls facing the salty waves, all perfectly uniform, and when I was tired and the bottoms of my feet ached, I turned around and started walking back. I would have loved the feeling of finishing a longer running distance, but I knew I needed God more, so I slowed my pace and began to recount to Him my worries.
I acknowledged the abundance, of course. It would have been impossible not to, walking on the beach, the water and the air temperature both perfect, with a clock hardly ticking. These days are an unspeakable gift, I know... and so I knew it was necessary to speak them, to admit to both myself and the Lord that He has taken very good care of us, always.
In spite of that, I've struggled for several days to shake the fear of the bubble popping - which is just a nice way of saying "the fear of the future". In a matter of hours, we'll return to a place where life is normal, responsibilities are present and increasing, and the school year will begin again under still-not-ideal circumstances. The world feels unsteady and that has never stopped God from providing for us before, but unfortunately I still feel fear. I had meant to be a better listener on my walk back down the beach, but instead found myself explaining all of this to God - as if He didn't already know the very depths of my heart. I fear that sometime in the future, we will find ourselves in circumstances where it is difficult to serve the Lord freely, and I fear for the safety of our family - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I pray often that God will lay for my children a path that they can follow through their life circumstances that will lead them to Him, and I believe that He will answer that prayer, but it feels like those paths will be fraught with danger and I feel so helpless to protect them.
God spoke to my questions and fears as we listened to church last night (John 10), as Grant prayed aloud about things I hadn't even told him yet, and as I opened my Bible this morning to Daniel 12.
"So Jesus again said unto them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:7-11)
Even my own faith path is rugged and fraught with danger, with the thief very present to steal my time in worry, to kill my ambition in my callings, and to destroy my relationship with my Father. But Jesus is my shepherd, and Jesus is the door. And as He does for me, so can I do for my own children - teach, guide, lead, and stand guard at the door of their hearts. Again there is opportunity to lay down my life - my desires, my fears, my plans - at His feet, in exchange for life, abundantly.