I recently had an incredible experience while visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My husband had gone fishing for the day on a charter with friends, and he left me with the truck, to spend the day on the beach. I have ridden with him on the sandy beaches for 33 years, but I had never driven on the beach and was hesitant about it, though I did not want him to know, as I had assured him multiple times that I would be fine on my own for the day and to enjoy his day.
I had dropped him off before daylight and headed out to what we call south beach in Frisco, on my own. It was early when I drove out on the beach at the ramp entrance and only a few other trucks in sight. I knew I wanted to walk to what is known as “the point” so my goal was to drive to the area where vehicles could not go any further and I would walk along the beach the rest of the way. I had not gone far at all, when the sand was not as hard, the truck felt like it was sinking in the sand and my heart began to pound thinking “what if I get stuck.” I stopped, literally right where I was. I was afraid to go any further and thought I will just walk. It was calling for rain, so I had on my rain jacket and the only bag in the truck, just in case I saw seashells along the way was one of those “give-away” bags you get at health fairs and such. I grabbed my bag and set off on my journey.
It was further than I realized to the area where vehicles were required to stop. I could see other people walking towards me from the direction of the point, with what was obviously full bags of shells, and even five-gallon buckets, filled to the brim with shells. Though my intention was to walk to the point, and just pick up a shell here and there, I did feel disappointment that there may be no shells left.
As I continued walking along, now with no one in sight, with the sun barely above the edge of the water, I was thinking about what an incredible God we have. The solitude of the beach, the sound of the waves gently breaking at the water’s edge, knowing he created all of this, gives you a lot to think about.
As I was walking along, I saw a large conch shell from a distant and thought, wow there is one someone missed, but as I got closer and picked it up, I could see that it was broken. It made me think about when my daughter was young, and how she would love to go with me looking for seashells. She would pick up random shells, scream in delight as she handed me shell after shell, usually broken, but to her they were beautiful. I thought about the shells that I was seeing and how at first glance, depending on how they were laying, they were beautiful and perfect. It made me think about life, and how we look at other peoples lives and at first glance their life does seem perfect, and how we are all like that, placing only what we want others to see, at an angle, where our life looks perfect, even though we too have “holes or imperfections” in our lives. If only others viewed life with the eye of a child, that everything is good, even when it is not perfect.
As I walked along I would pick up broken shells and think further about how I could turn them this way or that way and no one would know that it was broken.
I continued to walk along the beach, in complete awe of all the shells I was finding along my walk. I have a friend that I was texting pictures to, as she like me loves to look for seashells. She was as excited as I was, and she was not even there. But as I continued to walk, filling my bag with shells, my bag became very heavy. Like life, sometimes our burdens, become more than we can carry. I was determined to make it to the “point” and I could see so many conch shells lining the beach ahead. I cannot stop now I though, just a little further, just a few more shells. I had not looked back to see how far I had gone, only ahead and how much further to reach my destination. But as I continued to walk, I would tell myself just a little further, just a few more shells, feeling somewhat greedy that I could not stop myself from “getting them all.” It was not until I saw a family with children walking toward me, picking up shells, that I stopped, so they could share in the excitement. As I stopped to turn around and head back, one of the children ran to me with excitement to show me her shell she had found. It was beautiful and I had never seen one so beautiful. The picture does not capture the beauty and uniqueness of the shell. I told her not to miss all the conch shells she had passed by running toward me, and she said she wouldn’t and headed back up the beach.
As I made the turn heading back, I realized how far I had walked. I could not see my truck at all and could barely see the trucks parked along the beach where foot traffic only began. How did I go this far, what was I thinking? My bag was so heavy, and I realized how tired I truly was. It was times like this that I get frustrated with my disease of rheumatoid arthritis because my arms, hands, and even my shoulder was hurting so bad, that I had tears in my eyes and was choking back sobs. But I kept going and at times dragging my bag until I could not go any further. I knew this was impossible and I was going to have to leave some shells behind. I reluctantly I can assure you, dug through my bag, to the bottom, where I had picked up some of the first shells I had seen, shells with holes, and laid them on the beach, with sadness. I even texted my friend who like me, could not believe I was going to walk off and leave the shells behind. I did think how sad, that here I was not looking at the holes like I did earlier, the beauty of the “rest of the shell” and just like that I was quick to leave those shells behind because they were not perfect. It made me think, thank God, that our God does not leave us behind because we are not perfect.
I continued along with my shell bag, though lighter, still too heavy for me to carry much further. I had tried every position I could carry, and even thought about how I could use my raincoat to make a second bag to lighten the load on one side. I stood along the edge of the beach, looking at my bag, and at the distance ahead and I could see my footprints in the sand I had left earlier, and I thought about the popular print we have all seen, “Footprints in the Sand” where the author talks about though we only see one set of footprints, and thinking God is not with us, that in fact it is God that is carrying us, and his footprints are what we see.
In the good times he walks right beside us and in the bad he carries us. We are never left alone in this world. We may be in it but we are definitely not of it. John 15:19
I felt foolish to pray to God to help me make it back, and I knew all I had to do was put the shells down and I would be fine, but like burdens we carry, we often don’t put them down. We pray to God to help us and we do not have the faith to give the situation to God and not take it back. I had given up a “few shells” but was not willing to give it all up, like we do with our burdens.
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
I finally realized I really was not going to make it back to the truck with my load and gave in. Lucky for me it was a short walk to a vehicle where a young man was fishing. I asked him if I could leave my bag, that I could not go any further and he said “of course.” I can only imagine what he was thinking because trust me by now I was quite disheveled looking. I explained to him that I may not be back because I was afraid to drive that far on the sand and he told me if I got stuck, to come to get him and he would pull me out. Like life, when we get stuck, God is there to pull us out, if we only allow him.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I did make it to my truck, where I sat for a few minutes thinking about how bad I had been hurting earlier, but how once I put my bag down and walked away the pain and discomfort was left behind as well. It made me think about life and how we really do have to walk away from what is causing us pain, whether emotionally or physically and with God’s help, we can.
At more than one point on my walk, I had tears streaming down my cheeks, from the pain of the bags, as well as the pain in my heart, knowing we all carry burdens, and that we carry, and we need to trust God, and give it, whatever “it” is to him, and trust he will carry us through.
“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:22
So, yes I did drive the rest of the way on the sand, thanked the young man for his encouragement, and keeping my shells of course, and headed back to the camper, where I reflected on my morning.
As I am at home now, and enjoying the beautiful shells I found, I will never forget my experience and wanted to share it with others, so maybe you too can remember to:
Just like our children look to us to protect them, our God will protect us, when we accept him as our Savior and give our life to him. We are his children, and we need to have faith that he will protect us “like a parent.”
I know this and though I did not know all the scripture I have posted above by heart, like many do, though I wish I did, I am reminded daily that though I am not perfect, I am at peace walking daily with God by my side and when needed carrying me along this journey called life.