“What do most people miss?”
This was the question I love to ask locals whenever I visit a new place. Whenever I ask it, I'm guaranteed to get an intriguing answer.
We were staying near the North Carolina coast and enjoying the beauty of a lovely summer day. The waitress looked me over and paused for a long time. I could tell she wasn't sure if she could trust me, as if her answer might change everything. She looked me deep in the eyes and took a deep breath.
“Go right,” she said.
I asked her to explain what she meant.
"Everyone always goes on the main path to the left. Don't go that way, go the opposite direction. You'll see."
I knew the path she meant. I had already walked that gorgeous stretch of coastline every day since my arrival and loved all of its beauty – stunning homes, and a pretty pier that led to the city boardwalk. It was well manicured, organized, and elegant. She told me to go the opposite way.
Intrigued, I followed her instructions the next morning.
For a moment, I thought I was going the wrong way. The path to the right was wild, narrow, and unsteady in places. It looked as if it was heading to a dead-end of the beach. As I rounded a huge pile of driftwood and scrubby piles of brush, the beach suddenly spread out into a vast, wide-open place.
The terrain changed immediately. It went from resort-style order to chaotic, wild scrub. The beach stretched wider than in any place I had seen it. Tufted grassy bluffs perched on high knolls and added a sentry-style contrast to the tourist side. As I continued on, the beach kept opening more and more until it ended in a hidden inlet.
A dot of white caught my eye and upon closer inspection, I recognized it as a sand dollar. I had never found a whole sand dollar before. I had seen them in gift shops but never on the beach. As I continued, I came upon sand dollar after sand dollar. At the beginning, I thought it was some sort of strange phenomenon, but the beach was loaded with so many sand dollars, there were more than I could possibly carry. There were dozens upon dozens of them, all in one place.
As I walked the secret place, I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. So many times I had taken the well-worn path, seeing places like everyone else. Those were nice and good. In fact, it was easy to follow the ways that everyone goes. But had I not asked that simple question, I would have missed so much.
That experience had Psalm 18:19 written all over it: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (NIV)
I couldn’t help but smile over this tiny sentence of scripture coming to life for me in unexpected ways. Isn't that just like God? Inviting me to a sacred and secret place, wide open with blessings and adventures.
More often than I want to admit, I want to do what everyone else does. As a Christ-follower, sometimes I don’t want to do things differently. I want to go where everyone else goes. I don’t want to have to pray for difficult, hard-to-love people or be burdened in ways that no one else seems to care about. I don't want to have to give the reason for the hope within me. I just want to settle for being a nice person rather than a Jesus follower.
Yet I want to lead a life that is about something bigger by following Christ. I know this wilderness path I am invited to walk down isn’t for everyone. But it is for me. Following Jesus has invited me into territories I never would have gone. Just like there were more sand dollars than I could ever carry, I know the blessings of following Christ can never be held in my hands. More than material things, they have carried me through difficult terrain and the wilds of life, into wide-open places of abundance, and overflowing arms-full amounts of blessings.
If you want more adventure in your life, be willing to ask where to look. Search out where others don't usually go. Be open to surprising answers that take you to wilderness places. Not only does this work when you are a tourist, but it also works when you ask God to show you more of what He has for you.
I’m grateful for that waitress who trusted me with her secret.
More importantly, I’m grateful I get to follow a God who has more for me than I can possibly carry in this lifetime.