`48°54'28"N by 122°45'30"W <http://maps.google.com/maps?q=48%C2%B054'28.86%22N%20122%C2%B045'30.77%22W&t=h>`__
This past week I've really been out of it, not really able to focus, kinda frustrated at church, frustrated at myself. So when I dropped south of the border for my weekly gas fill-up, I decided to stay a bit longer and enjoy the afternoon sun on Birch Bay. A nice long walk on the beach is always good for soothing me!
Birch Bay is a quiet little community of mostly rental beach houses, lined up along the semicircular waterfront. It's so small that it's not actually a town of its own: officially, it's just part of Blaine. The exclusive and ultra-expensive Semiahmoo resort community and country club lies to the north, but Birch Bay itself is still accessible to the "everyman": there are large 4x4 trucks and Harley motorcycles parked outside the pubs and fish-'n-chips restaurants. This afternoon, the tide is partially out, and there are a few young families out clam-digging in the muddy flats.
I pick up a bottle of iced tea at the corner store, park the car, and trek out along the rocky beach -- no particular destination in mind, but still intent on walking, moving, going forward. The beach here is not the nice soft sand of Acadia beach or Jericho beach: it is rocky and uneven, and slippery with seaweed. The hard rocks poke into my feet, even through my sandals. I walk with my head down, focused on the next step in front of me, pushing on. The pebbles and barnacles crackle loudly beneath my feet: crunch, crunch, crunch. It is hard work; I must stay the course and persevere. But I realize I'm not so much headed toward anything as much as I am simply headed away -- away from my car, away from Vancouver -- and, perhaps, away from my problems and frustrations there. As seems to be a trend for me, it takes some time, whether on the road or on foot, before I've "de-stressed" enough to think and take stock of where I am and what's bothering me. Today, by the time I pause to look back, I'm surprised to see that I've walked nearly two miles down the beach; my car is a speck in the distance.
When I stop moving, the sudden silence is startling: there is no traffic, there are no voices, not even any wind, just a few seagulls calling, off in the distance. I suddenly think of the story of Elijah in I Kings 19, when he is hiding out in a cave, physically and emotionally drained, despairing of life. In the stillness and through the sound of a gentle blowing, God asks Elijah:
What are you doing here, Elijah?
And maybe, just maybe, God is asking me the same question: What are you doing here? Why are you running away? Don't you trust that I have a plan for you? There's work left to be done!
I can't believe how quickly I messed things up at church, ruffled feathers, and even got a few people to not really be on speaking terms with me -- all just in my first few months here! First impressions go a long way -- and bad first impressions mean a deficit of trust that takes a long time to pay back. I was over-eager, a bit naïve, I didn't know the "rules of engagement" at this church ... and I certainly didn't expect such a strong reaction. So for the past few months I've been trying to hide a bit, lay low, make less waves. A friend who was praying for me last night mentioned the phrase, "shaken confidence", and I think that's apt -- my confidence really has been shaken. In a church as big as ours it wouldn't be hard for me to avoid certain people -- attend the other campus, stay out of certain ministries; it's pretty easy. And perhaps it is better for those ministries if I stay away from them, I dunno. But I know that running away won't solve problems; shutting down lines of communication will only make things worse. From my quiet time last week:
Pursue peace with all men,and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
And again, from my quiet time this morning:
For, the one who desires life, to love and see good days,must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.He must turn away from evil and do good;He must seek peace and pursue it,for the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,and His ears attend to their prayer,but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Real peace does not mean avoiding conflict, insulating myself, or excluding "problem people" -- real peace means coming together in humility and in prayer, on the common ground of Scripture, under the common authority of our Father in heaven. Real peace takes hard work: real peace is pursued.
I am thankful for the encouragement of another friend of mine: I had been sharing how lately I'd been a bit afraid to introduce myself to new people and chat before/after Sunday service, for fear that people would again ask, "Why are you here?", or "Why are you talking to them?" -- as though I had some nefarious ulterior motive why I wanted to get to know people. Much simpler just to keep quiet and pray by myself, just like everyone else does. "But," countered my friend, "isn't that just contributing to the problem of our church not being welcoming? If you know it's right to reach out to people, then shouldn't you do it anyway?"
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.