I am on a much anticipated and long awaited trip to the gulf coast. I came to relax and push my reset button after nine intense months putting the Purpose Dweller journey online. (It's been the second most difficult and rewarding nine months of my life.)
I love to visit the ocean because it speaks volumes about what a big and powerful God we serve. But yesterday, it was more than the ocean that spoke to me of His power...
It was a little before 8:00 am. It had been storming since dawn. We'd watched out the window, waiting for the weather to change. The sun was just beginning to show itself, so we threw on our beachwear and prepped our belongings. I carried the first load of chairs and toys down the wooden steps of the public beach access. To my right, I noticed a man in red, white and blue flag swim trunks, asleep in the sand. He had no towel beneath him and a backpack near his head. His cap was on crooked so that the bill didn't cover his face properly. His feet seemed quite large and swollen in proportion to this thin, leathered frame.
I continued my trek to the shoreline and staked our claim at the water's edge. We arranged our things for the day. I sat beneath the sunshade to guard my freckled skin from the searing heat. I played Kenny Chesney on my small speaker and pulled an ice cold Michelob Ultra from the cooler beside my chair. I watched the waves roll in and scooted the sand beneath my feet to get to the cool grains underneath.
I swam with my son and we played a game he made up. Just before each wave came crashing at us he would call out "over" or "under," and we'd jump or duck accordingly. The saltwater tasted sweet on my lips but it stung my eyes. I tried not to think about the man in the sand. His situation stung me too and stood in stark contrast to our frolicking.
As the day wore on, we carried on small talk with a couple close by. The conversation turned to the guy still sleeping near the stairs. The couple reported that they saw him handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police car as they came to the beach. She explained why he was now laying there when she said, "The officer un-cuffed him and told him to go sleep it off. I guess he's sleeping it off."
I walked by him again as I headed up to the room to make lunch. I moved slowly along the pathway and examined him through my sunglasses. Sweat soaked his small, blue t-shirt that was only pulled part way down his rib cage, leaving his belly exposed. His skin was dry and cracked.
I didn't have an umbrella to offer, but I so, so wanted to bring him one. I wanted to slather sunscreen on his sunken cheeks. I wanted to wake him up and lead him to a shady spot under the palm trees that lined the retaining wall.
What I really wanted was for him not to be homeless and hung over and hot and dangerously dehydrated. I desperately wanted to fix this (... or fix him... or fix life... or fix something. I couldn't put my finger on just what it was exactly that needed fixing).
Yet I knew that I could not fix it. So instead, I made him a turkey sandwich. I put Fritos in one plastic baggie and an apple with carrots in another. I grabbed one of my son's orange sodas and a cold bottle of water from the frig.
When I came back down, he was sitting up in the sand rubbing his taut feet. I approached gently so not to startle him. I said, "Sir?" The sun was to my back; he looked up at me and squinted. His eyes were bright and deep blue-green like the sea behind me; gray stubble covered his chin and cheeks. Drool dripped long from the left side of his lips and hung there. I squatted beside him with the plate in my hand and spoke again, "I made you some lunch. I thought you might be hungry." A sweet smile spread across his sunburned face. He spoke softly, "Thank you mam. Thank you. They know me here. It's okay. They know me."
I took off my sunglasses so we could make eye contact; I smiled and nodded. He seemed relieved that no further explanation was needed. He said, with the slobber still hanging from his jaw line, "This is so nice of you." In his tone, he seemed surprised by simple kindness.
"It's from Jesus," I said (and had not expected at all to say it). I continued with words that came from somewhere else, "Jesus gave me the idea to bring you lunch. He really loves you, you know. The man nodded and said with excitement, "Yes mam! We serve a powerful God -- a powerful God!"
I replied, "Indeed we do, sir. Indeed we do."
We shared the kind of grin that goes beyond the corners of a mouth and settles in a soul. In that moment, I realized I was looking into the very eyes of God, and that I was squatted on hot and holy sand.
Even more than the sun and surf and sand, I felt the power of God through this moment... this man... this meal. It was through the very thing I wanted to fix that (yet again) God was fixing me.
Indeed we do serve a powerful (and often surprising) God.
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