Every evening at dusk on our recent holiday to Vanuatu we paddled a canoe from our island resort to a nearby reef. Once positioned where juicy beds of seaweed waved long fingers in the tide, we lifted our paddles to nurse them on our knees and wait. We scanned the translucent blue, drifting, silent.
And then we would hear the telltale sigh or snort, the release of air as a sea turtle surfaced nearby. We would watch their head and shell break through the salty deep to glance left, right, left and dive once more.
Hubby and I would share a wordless smile.
Every day these shy creatures would venture into the shallows to feed on the sea grasses at dusk and dawn. Sometimes they would swim in reaching distance of our canoe and glide beneath us, giving a rare glimpse at their mottled backs and flippers. But the instant we dipped our paddles back into the water to follow them or attempt to get a closer look, they would disappear, leaving nothing so much as a sandy cloud in the upset water.
As I flip-flopped in thongs, singlet top and boardies back to our beachfront bungalow, it struck me that the way of the turtles has a lot in common with a truth that God has been teaching me lately. It’s supremely simple, embarrassingly so. Are you ready? Here it is:
Stop. Rest. Wait.
So much of life is spent furiously thrashing our paddles against the water, trying to chase faster and more efficiently, weaving our canoe expertly to accomplish that goal, that dream, that aspiration. Sometimes God says, “Stop” and “Let me finish this”.
That’s where I’m at.
In my Bible, Psalm 37 has been underlined and circled and dog-eared until it practically falls open to that place in anticipation. Depending on what’s going on in my life, different verses leap off the page.
At the moment, it’s verse 7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Oh, and a bit of verse 4 too: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
We all want to be blessed, to live a blessed life. It’s one of those words that has been lost in translation though. Once it simply meant, ‘to be made holy’. These days we use the word to speak of good fortune, wealth, health, beauty and even fame.
I read a great article on this topic by blogger Scott Dannemiller (The Accidental Missionary). He challenges the perception that blessing is linked to what we have, pointing out that Jesus would have called it a burden.
“When I say that my material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers.”
He goes on to point out the offense such a mindset has on the “millions of Christians in the world who live on less than $10 per day.”
So what is it to be blessed?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:3-12. The passage is called The Beatitudes and each sentences starts with, “blessed are…” They’re not conventional blessings. Jesus tells us that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the peacemakers and the pure in heart – they are the blessed ones.
When we still our paddles and wait on God, these blessings come to us, swimming around us and filling us with their beauty.
If only we would stop thrashing and chasing in the wrong direction.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 24, 2014.
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