I just recently returned home from the annual beach trip I take with my mom and younger sister. As usual, there was much sitting under an umbrella on the shore, alternating between people-watching, reading, and napping. It was all together a wonderful vacation.
One day, I decided to take a walk down the beach to the nearest pier. It was about a mile away. My sister asked me if I wanted company, but I respectfully declined. I had just finished reading a difficult chapter of the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller. The Lord and I needed to talk.
I began to walk. Typically, beach walks are more like strolls for me. The sand is even; the water washes gently over my feet. But this time was different. There were many deep dips in the sand, which created deep pools of sea water that I either had to figure out how to walk around or just power through. More often than not, I chose to power through the little pools, so my walk was more vigorous than what I was used to.
About half way to the pier, I decided to turn around. But before I did, the Lord quietly said, “Keep going.” There was no urgency in His voice. Just a gentle suggestion. “Keep going.” I said to Him, “Well, okay.” Profound stuff, I know. But stick with me.
I got about 3/4 of the way to the pier and stubbed my toe a little on something. I figured it was a shell, so I bent down to pick it up and examine it. I noticed that it was partially in the wet sand, so I pulled at it. It took a little more effort than I was expecting, and I quickly discovered why. It was a live conch. The snail was still inside it and everything. I had never even seen an empty conch shell, let alone one still alive.
In my excitement, I held it gently and found the nearest stranger with which to share my discovery. It was some random lady. I exclaimed, “Look at this! Look what I found!” She replied, “Whoa that’s really cool! Guys, come over here and look at this,” gesturing to her husband and older son. The four of us admired the conch for a few moments, then the son gently took it from me and put it in the water. I went the remaining distance to the pier, touched it, turned around, and walked back toward my beach umbrella.
Do I think God specially placed that conch in the sand for me to find? No. But do I think He knew it was there all along AND knew I would enjoy discovering it? Yes. Oh, how He loves me.
What if I had chosen to turn back half way through the walk? What if I had ignored His gentle suggestion of, “Keep going?” He wouldn’t have been angry with me, and there wouldn’t have been some profound negative consequence. I simply would have missed out on a cool moment. I would have missed out on the delight that the conch brought me. I would have missed out on the serendipitous interaction with those people. Though it wouldn’t have been life altering, it would have been sad to miss.
So I’m glad I kept going. And I’m glad I didn’t have my phone with me to take a picture. The experience went undocumented, but not forgotten. It was special, and I’ll always remember it. And God taught me something important. It’s worth it to keep going. Even when you’re tired of the walk, no matter how beautiful the scenery, keep going. Sometimes the reward is great and extravagant. Sometimes its a small moment with a conch and three strangers. Either way, the walk is always worth it.