Yesterday was a classic, roller-coaster day. I say “roller-coaster”, because in the course of 5 hours, my life managed to turn inside out, upside down and then return back to “right” again, and I say “classic”, because this sort of thing has happened too often than I’d care to remember. Once again, I was blind-sided by a turn of events from someone very close to me, only this time, all my information was gleaned from the internet. I was thousands of miles away from home, and my life was changing faster than I could hope to catch up. Then, all of the sudden, everything was “fine”; it was like nothing ever happened. Again, classic.
As you can imagine, my emotions were a wreck. Like so many times previously, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. It was all just so confusing. So complicated.
As the day comes to an end, Tom and Nutie ask me if I’d like to join them; they want to go to a new beach to celebrate our last night in Costa Rica (we had to leave Nicaragua for 3 days to renew our VISA’s). Anxious for a diversion, I agree and we all pile into the car, off to Playa Coco (Coco Beach). Tom heads for the basketball courts as soon as we arrive and Nutie, eyes on the horizon, says she wants to take a walk along the shore. I find myself a nice spot in the sand and sit down to read. I try a few different books (Kindles are amazing things), but I can’t sink into the storyline. My mind is miles away, stalled in neutral, unable to move past the major road block from that afternoon. “WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED???” Over and over, echoing in my mind. “Father, where do I even start?” Heartbreak so raw, so fresh I’m scared to even touch it. So I just sit. Time passes unnoticed.
I start to stir when I notice the sun is starting to set. “I’m at the beach, after all. Maybe it’s time to get into the water.” And as I step into the waves, God gives me an incredible gift: the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
Earlier that morning it had rained and it stayed cloudy for the rest of the day. Usually the skies clear up after a thunderstorm, but I didn’t think much of it; I had more than enough on my mind that afternoon. But as I walked into the water yesterday evening, I remembered that cloudy afternoons can make for the best sunsets. The show to come confirmed that fact. As I gazed at the awe-inspiring oranges, pink, purples, yellows and blues, my stalled heart was moved, and I couldn’t help but worship. “You are beautiful beyond description. Too marvelous for words… Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.” “I see your face in every sunrise… Oh, You’re beautiful.” “In the quiet, in the stillness I know that You are God. In the secret of Your presence, I know there I am restored. So when You call I won’t delay, this my song through all my days: There is no one else for me. None but Jesus. In the chaos, in confusion I know You’re sovereign still…” “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul, worship His holy name. Sing like never before, oh my soul. Worship His holy name”.
And as I continued to sing 10,000 Reasons, I remembered…
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me; let me be singing when the evening comes”.
I remembered that before my day began, I prayed a prayer that has almost become habit recently:
“Father, I have no idea what the plan is for today, but You do. You hold today. Help me to walk with You in it, taking advantage of every opportunity, not giving in to cowardice or fear. Help me to recognize Your lead. Help me to abide in You.”
Whoa. Little did I know how incredibly fitting that prayer was! Mere hours before, I had no idea what lay ahead of me, but here I stood “singing when the evening came”.
All afternoon, as the hurricane rage around me, I prayed for God’s voice, for His clear direction. But He stayed silent. It wasn’t till I was standing in the ocean that I realized: I passed the test. I had surrendered the day into God’s hands, and I clung to Him in the midst of confusion and chaos. In that moment in the water, I felt His pride and pleasure over me. I did well!
Then the intense beauty of the sunset captured me. Such contrast. Whispers of cloud, hot pink from the setting sun, floating in a indigo sky; blue-black waves, kissed with pink in reflection. As the sun sank deeper, the contrast increased; it didn’t even look real. Could anything be this beautiful? And then, softer and more subtle than the ocean breeze, the Holy Spirit whispered this thought into my mind.
“This is your life! As your circumstances become more and more difficult, as your surroundings grow increasingly dark, your life will shine all the more brightly for me, catching every ray and aspect of My light. I am a God of redemption. I use the pain and evil of this world, of your life, for my incredible good. This is your life. Watch, and worship. Be encouraged and be at peace.”
My heart was overflowing with love, admiration and speechless praise. Here stood hope. Here was joy painted across the skies in the very moment of my need.
Only in a tropical country can you watch the sun sink below the horizon (it sets so fast!). I scanned the skies, anticipating the incredible show to become muted and dissipate. But, to my great surprise, the contrasting colors grew even more vivid! And through them, I again heard the voice of my God speaking to me…
“Take heart, Jessi. Just like I make the sky more beautiful after the sun has set, so I can do with you. Your life, lived in complete surrender and communion with me, can send forth sparkling rays to generations, even after your death. One life lived according to my plan can color the lives of countless in your family. I am a God who makes a heritage. Your life will leave a legacy.”
Nothing I could say, nothing I could think, nothing I could pray or sing could be the proper response to what I had just witnessed and heard. There in the Pacific, thousands of miles away from home, standing alone in the water, God met me in an unmistakable, unforgettable way.