In a dream, though neither fully asleep nor fully awake, I find my present age self walking along a distant shore. Colorful seashells littered the sand, some large and grand in appearance, others small and seemingly less significant. Holding each in my hand, I gaze upon empty shells that once were full of life. As I lift each one to my ear I hear the echoes of past memories, part of who I am now and yet also a distant past. Peering into their darkness I’m surprised to see a certain light, sometimes bright and clear and other times shadowy and less distinct – all bearing witness to a life gone by. There’s no going back.
The stones on the beach likewise caught my eye. Some were jagged and rough bearing the scars of stormy waters. But so many of them, so very many, were worn soft and smooth by the continual and gentle washing of the sea of God’s love. As I pick them up, one by one, each bears its own testimony. Piled together they make an altar of remembrance of a life lived sometimes carelessly without serious intent and thankfully, other times lived ever so passionately and vibrantly. The smooth stones and the rough all laid together in a common pile.
A small boat, sufficient for only one passenger at a time, is docked nearby. Approaching it, I place one foot on the boat but keep the other on the dock. At once, I recall how many times I have been in this very same stance, as if paralyzed, wanting on the one hand the security of the shore and on the other the thrill of adventure. But the adventure always, always, begins only when I set both feet, my whole self, into the boat and allow it to be carried by the current of God’s immense and providence mercy.
And so it is is now, my whole self in the boat. And at once the boat is adrift and the shore a distant sight. No “captain of my own destiny,” I am surrendered to the course ahead, set by God himself, who knows and commands the seas. Alone in the boat, I realize why it affords passage for only one, because only one can go at a time to the next distant shore. Already I am overwhelmed by its magnificence. Sights so familiar to the best I visited before, but at the same time so much more colorful and springing with life and beauty. How is it that I am allowed to enter such a land? Only by the grace of God, only by his grace!
I could scarcely take it in when suddenly I found myself on the beach again. But not the distant beach of the future shore, nor the far away shore of the distant past. But now, how could this be, here I am again at the shoreline of my present life! Boulders of troubles remain in my sight, but also springtime meadows and great, magnificent mountains begging to be climbed.
And people. . . so many people to welcome me and join in their festivities and share also each others woes. People who are alive now, not just memories of who we once knew. People shaped by the currents that have uniquely tumbled them here, along with me. People, God’s gift to us, each a piece of each other’s puzzle, like fragments of great seashells carefully crafted together by the master’s hand.
And so the journey continues, not in a dream, but fully awake – eyes wide open. But this is a journey of intention, not whimsical fancy or mindless distraction. It’s a path of purpose and passion guided by God’s own Spirit, and leading only to him, only to him. Ultimately, the path narrows to single file, where we can only pass one at a time. But for now, however long or short that time may be, we remain together for a common purpose to encourage many more, so many more, to follow in the steps of the ones who leads us, Jesus.