All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. –Psalm 139: 16b
On Hatteras Island, North Carolina, there is a half-mile stretch of golden sand beach that looks pretty much like any other half-mile stretch of golden sand beach on the planet. There are shells there and some driftwood. Halfway up the dunes, just past where the last house is built, there is the recently unearthed hull of a wooden boat. Just after sunrise in mid-fall, you might find a fisherman or two out there, but more often than not you’re all by yourself. If I didn’t know God is everywhere all of the time, I might easily be convinced that He lives right there on that beach.
That stretch of beach is where the poem “Footprints” comes to life for me. When I walk on that beach early in the morning, I can practically feel Jesus walking right beside me. (Speaking of that, He and I have a date in eternity, to walk barefoot beside the crystal sea together. So when you get to Heaven and you don’t see me right off, you know where I am.) Sometimes, when I am walking high up on the beach far out of reach of the tide, one rogue wave will race up the beach and run right over my toes. It makes me laugh, because I always imagine that it is God playing His own little game with me. (Stop thinking I’m crazy… if you think God is beyond that kind of fun with His children, then you have to ask yourself if you really know Him.) There is just something about that place. It’s not better than any other place, it’s just that there, I tend to stop, to be just a little bit more still, to listen just a little bit better.
When we got our orders to Fort Drum a few years ago and my life felt like a whirlwind of confusion and missed turns and my husband was about to leave us behind to go up there to wait for who knew how long for housing for all of us, I stood on that beach, and God washed peace over me like I have never known before. He was simply there with me.
I stood on that beach about six weeks after my husband left for Iraq, stared out across the water, and waited for God to make me feel better the way He always makes me feel better when I’m standing right there. He didn’t. Instead, He made me surrender. He made me put my husband in His hands. Then He gave me peace. But that is another story.
One day, I was listening to Ten Shekel Shirt’s “Ocean” when God did that thing where He whacks me upside my hard head and puts me on my knees (maybe not literally with the whacking on the head part, but definitely with the on my knees part). He said to me, “I made that for you.”
“I made that for you.”
“You made what for me.”
“That beach. I made it for you.” (Of course, you know that this conversation is actually the fanciful version of a wordless revelation, right? Okay. Just checking.)
“God, with all due respect, there is no way you made a stretch of sand where other people have built their houses, where countless boats have landed through the ages, where sea turtles and birds have laid eggs… there is no way you made it just for me.”
“I didn’t say ‘just’ for you; I said ‘for’ you.”
“When my mind imagined that place… when my finger drew the line of that shorefront and divided the water from the land and told the sea ‘this far and no further,’ I saw everything that would happen on that beach every second from the day of its birth to the end of time, and I saw you. I knew exactly where you would place your feet as you walked. I knew exactly which waves would bathe your feet and I saw you smile when they did. I knew you would come out here hurting and wondering and would stand silently staring out across the ocean waiting for me. And I knew that you would find peace. I knew that you would be quiet here and let me give you answers. I knew what this place would do to your soul and spirit. And while I made it for sea turtles and birds and boats and even other people… you were on my mind when I made it, and I made it with you in mind.”
God’s mind amazes me. I wonder how He keeps it all straight? So many things to fit together so perfectly, each thing affecting the next thing, each person touching the next and changing the entire game. Like massive dominoes, one action causes a million reactions. And God can trace them all and keep track of them all. No wonder David said, “Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! ?God, I’ll never comprehend them! ?I couldn’t even begin to count them—any more than I could count the sand of the sea.” (Ps. 139: 17-18a, MSG).