My favorite times to hit the beach are sunrise and sunset. Sunrise, alone. Sunset, with the family. Many mornings I set my alarm and went to the beach alone to pray. I would watch the sun rise lazily and take slow, deep salty breaths.
I have a special fondness for watching sunrises with God -- no matter where I am. At the beach though, there's something extraordinary about the sun rising over a seemingly infinite sea. What starts as a fine pink line around a few clouds turns into a giant blazing, beautiful orb. The light reflects on the water. The waves crash on the shore. His creation is spectacular!
Yet even as enamored as I was with God and His pink sky, it surprised me how easily I became distracted by something as comical as a ghost crab. Occasionally this tiny creature would run up to the surface, and then quickly disappear back into the moist, pressed sand. I became a little obsessed. A lot obsessed. I wanted to take a picture the next time it emerged so I turned my back to the sunrise to focus on this little hole in the sand. I stared intensely and knelt down toward the ground. I was fixated on the hole for way too long. All the while, I was missing the sunrise and getting increasingly frustrated. My prayer time was fractured by constantly looking for something that wasn't meant to be seen.
God spoke to me in that moment and reminded me that we're tempted to lose our focus like this all the time. We're chasing ghosts and missing the beauty of what God has unfolding right in front of us.
We chase the ghosts of what's lost, what used to be, and what could have been. The ghosts of:
- failed relationships. You said you loved me, but you left.
- past hurts and childhood wounds. I'll never get over what happened.
- medical problems. What if it comes back?
- guilt and shame. Why did I do those awful things?
- old addictions. Maybe I can have a little, once in a while.
- loved ones lost too soon. I can't fully engage with the loved ones in front of me because I'm so despondent over the one who's gone.
- unmet expectations. Everything is changing, and I don't want this to end.
I don't know what ghosts you're chasing. Some of us have lives filled with heartache and disappointment. I would never minimize your pain. But I do know the One who can heal your deepest ache and trade it for great joy. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
I'm so thankful God reminded me what I was missing while I stared into a tiny, dark hole. I smiled to the sky and made a 180 degree turn. I shifted my eyes and my focus to something entirely more beautiful and entirely more promising -- the dawn of a new day. A new day with endless possibilities of promises fulfilled and redemption for what was lost.
I'm ready for what God has for me right here, right now. Are you? Let's stop chasing ghosts and face forward. "God's next" will be beautiful!
"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19
Special thanks to this generous family from 12Stone Church for giving us a vacation we'll never forget -- "the trip from God," as my daughter calls it. We long for the day we can bless others as much as we have been blessed.