By CW, (INCPF)
This week we went to the beach. It is a part of our city that we have been to many time and it is absolutely amazing. The sand is soft and white and it leads into the clear, cool (not cold) water that is waist deep for 100 yards or more. It’s never cloudy and the sun, though very intense, makes the water feel that much better. It is literally the perfect beach scenario. We were going to stay for two days and one night. The first day we decided to walk around the town for a while and get caught in some tourist traps, but our plan was to hit the beach later that afternoon (when the sun wouldn’t be as bad). It would be easy because, according to the hotel’s website, the beach was a mere 7 minute walk away.
So, when 3:00 rolled around we started getting ready. I asked the guy at the front desk which way to walk to the beach. Well, apparently we have different definitions of “7-minute walk”, mine is “when you begin your walking journey somewhere between 7-10 minutes later you will arrive at your destination”, the hotel’s was ” take a 10-15 minute walk to the city center where you will wait 15 minutes for a small bus to a beach in a different town which is about a 20 minute ride away”… maybe it was the language barrier.
Well we finally arrived to the beach in question and it was, I suppose, technically speaking a “beach”. It was a small strip of land directly connected to the ocean. The strip of land however, was completely covered with rocks, that though not jagged, to the bare foot seemed like walking on butcher knives. And you may think that the torture would end once you got into the water… well you’d be as disappointed as I was because those rocks just keep going as far as the eye can see. “Well maybe you could just start swimming and not have to walk on them” you may retort… nope, the water is maybe knee deep for the first 50 yards or so, but don’t worry the waves were strong enough to make you stagger over those horrible rocks and wish that you hadn’t even attempted going out.
So we expected one thing and got another. And while I sat on my towel which provided little comfort from the rocks, broken sea shells and cigarette butts underneath, bemoaning my terrible luck, “I’ve found beautiful beaches here before, why not this time?”, I noticed something which cut me worse than any of those rocks… my kids were having a great time. They were laughing and playing in the water, finding bits of sand in which they could dig holes which could then be filled with water. They had a great time and when it was time to go they really didn’t want to. What was the difference?
The difference was that they didn’t expect more than they should have and when they got what they were hoping for (water and sand) they felt blessed and excited for the opportunity. I expected more, because I had experienced more. That made me think of the work I do here. It really is riddled with disappointment, the people that I love, some of whom are my best friends in the world, are unable (for now) to believe in Jesus. I show them Scripture, I show them inconsistencies with their own beliefs or with their own lives and every time I’m met with some rejoinder which essentially begins with “yeah, but…”.
Many people leave their homes in America to come here (or wherever), expecting more than they were promised; expecting droves of people to meet them as they get off the plane asking “what must I do to be saved?”, expecting that their brains will be able to pick up the language of their people almost immediately, expecting that their house will be a certain size, their internet will be a certain speed and all those supporters back home will remember to pray for them everyday. And, when those expectation aren’t met we feel bitter disappointment which for a lot of people leads to going home earlier than expected.
But, as with all things, when I come to Jesus with these disappointments I’m reminded of two things: 1. His command: “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” and 2. His promise: “… I am with you always, to the end of the age.” My command is not to save thousands of people and start some kind of church planting movement, and though I long for those things, my measure of success cannot be in what happens, but in whether I did what I was told. So we move forward, not knowing if tomorrow will hold any new disciples for us but knowing that if we are lights in the darkness, and we try to put that light up as high as we can, that we have been successful.