Walking with the Lord
A year ago, I had occasion to visit beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. I decided to visit nearby Folly Beach. And so, I embarked alone on a local bus. The circuitous bus route led me to the middle of nowhere. The driver dropped me off at the corner of a highway and told me to walk straight south for approximately two or three (country) miles.
Of course, we all know that two or three country miles usually equals twice as many real miles, which means almost quadruple the number of kilometres. Having walked 40 minutes down the barren highway in my sandals, I worried when the beach was nowhere in sight and I could not yet smell the salt of the Atlantic Ocean.
I began to wonder if there really was a beach and whether I would be safe walking the rest of the way. I prayed and was reminded of the church sign that I had seen several years ago in Ottawa. “Exercise daily. Walk with the Lord,” it read. I walked on in faith, recalling that faith is the belief in things yet unseen.
Suffice it to say that I arrived at the sandy beach after a 70-minute walk and that I swam briefly in the warm Atlantic Ocean. The walk back to the local bus was another 70 minutes in my sandals. When I arrived back at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere, I saw that I had just missed the bus, which ran every hour and a half.
As I gazed around, I realized that God had just given me an unexpected 90 minutes to do absolutely nothing but enjoy the rest of that sunny afternoon. I recognized that the unexpected inconvenience was indeed an unexpected gift, and it was up to me to steward it well.
I smiled as I turned and saw that someone had placed an old vinyl chair at the bus stop. I had not noticed it there that morning. Having walked a total of 140 minutes, it was a godsend to sit down. There was a dirt path leading away to half a dozen modest wooden homes in obvious disrepair. A preteen boy eventually came out from one of the houses to collect the mail in the roadside box. We chatted amiably for a few minutes and I told him how thoughtful it was that someone had placed a chair there.
As I stared at the seemingly empty field across from the bus stop, I realized that the field was actually a patch of wetlands where the locals were searching diligently in the mud for blue crabs for their supper. I invited them to show me their catch of the day and they proudly displayed their makings of a feast.
I sat there enjoying my interrupted schedule and chatting with my American neighbors as they struggled proudly to survive in their simple surroundings. I was reminded of an important adage: happiness is in the heart, not the circumstances. I had expected absolutely nothing of that 90-minute exercise in patience, and I was richly rewarded. As Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted to have said, “Blessed is he (she) who expect nothing, for he (she) shall enjoy everything.”
That said, life is not always a day at the beach. At times, it is marked by unexpected tragedy, job loss, victimization, illness and death of a loved one. We wonder why these bad things happen, but we should not let our unexpected challenges define our future or our hope. And so, we pray that God will give us the grace and the courage to deal with our situation.
Sometimes the unexpected challenges come from our relationships with others and stewardship may mean walking a mile in the other person’s shoes. Sometimes it seems easiest to give up because it is downright difficult to face the mountains and the long road before us, but that is precisely when we need to invite God to guide our steps with wisdom.
Walking and talking with the Lord, have you exercised your faith today?