Lent, the Beach & Spiritual Minimalism

deerfield_beach_florida_us

A friend of mine contacted me and told me that she was following my blog and she asked that if there was a day that I was at a loss for what to write, she wished I would write about the day I met God on the beach.  

I have plenty I could write about today but since it’s the first day of Lent and I was thinking about fasting and I read this quote by Patricia Taylor, “Fasting makes space for God in our lives” and I was thinking about how minimalism is really like fasting – doing without to make room for better things – I realized that what happened to me on the beach 33 years ago really set me on a path of spiritual simplicity and so I felt it all worked together.

So, here you go K.

Let me say first that every step I took, every change I made, I feel was a needed step to get to the beach. I don’t look back on my experiences and say they were stupid or wasted or I was wrong or the people who led and mentored me were wrong. We all did what we thought was the best and I grew and it all worked out for good. That’s how God is.

Let me start again…

I was 22 years old, driving my little orange Volkswagon Beetle as fast as I could down to Florida. My husband was out on the ocean laying cable and I was headed down to visit my sister. I was very upset.

See, I had gotten saved in the Southern Baptist way at 12 years old. The preacher had said, “If there’s anyone you love and they have died and gone to heaven, the only way you will see them again is if you accept Christ as your personal Savior.” My mother had died when I was 3 years old and I really wanted to meet her and I felt this pull in my heart like God had tied a rope around it and was pulling me to the preacher. So, I followed the pull and went down and accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I didn’t know what I was doing but God took me seriously.

In the years that followed I said I was a Christian but I didn’t really know what that meant. I grew older and life happened and then life really happened and it got mean and ugly and dangerous and so at 16 years old I decided I needed to get serious with God because I was going to need Him to get through all the mess.

So, I dropped friends, hurt people, got religious, got serious, prayed, studied the Bible, went to church every time the doors were open, I witnessed and handed out tracts, I worked in the church and worked really hard to be a good Christian. I mean I had to pay God back for what He did for me on the cross, right? They say that’s not what they’re saying but the people in the church act like that’s what you have to do.So I followed their actions. I had to be good enough to meet the requirements to get into heaven, right? They told me that God accepts everyone even sinners, but they gave me dresses and told me how to look and act right to be accepted by Him.

After about 5 years of jumping through hoops, I was getting burned out. I was working really hard, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough. I always felt guilty. I was not enjoying life, but I never told anyone because I didn’t want to complain, seem like a whiner or appear like I didn’t really want to be a Christian. I mean you don’t live for this life, you’re storing up treasures in heaven, right?

Well, the breaking point came. Someone to whom I looked up to as one of the greatest Christians I knew was an absolute jerk to me. Hurt my feelings bad. I mean bad. The funny thing is I can’t even remember what it was but whatever it was gave me the excuse I was looking for to leave a religion that I was already trying to get out of. “If that’s a Christian, then I don’t want to be one!” I said proudly. Lame excuse, I know, but I was grasping at straws.

So, let’s get back in my VW Bug heading down to Florida. All the way down, all 13 hours, I was rehearsing my goodbye that I had planned to give to God. You know, “It’s not You, it’s all the fake people pretending to be your followers” speech.

I decided that I needed to give God a formal goodbye and a reason for breaking up with Him. So, I planned to stop at my favorite beach (the photo above is the place), find a spot by myself and tell God goodbye, bow out and leave.

It’s funny now, but I was really nervous. I parked my car, took off my shoes and headed to the beach. Thankfully it was during the week during work hours and so no one was there. I walked a way down past the boulders dotting the beach and stood with my toes just touching the surf as it gently reached out to touch me.

I took a breath….but before I could speak I heard a Voice.

I can’t tell you where it came from. It seemed to come from behind me, from inside me and surround me all at the same time. The Voice said,

“Before you go, I just want to tell you something.”

I looked around, no one was there. I stood facing the ocean waiting.

“Do you see that ocean?” the Voice said.

“Yes.”

“I thought of you the day I made it. I knew you’d like it.”

I was dumbfounded.

“Before you go, I just want you to know that I love you.”

I fell to my knees in tears as I was flooded with a feeling of love that I had never felt before. I was weeping. My father had never told me he loved me and those were words I had always longed to hear from him. Now I heard them from my Heavenly Father.

The Voice continued, “I don’t care if you ever read your Bible again. I don’t care if you ever go to church again or pray again. I just want you to know that I love you.”

I was undone.

God wasn’t trying to stop me from going. He wasn’t forcing me to do anything. He was just loving me.

In one sentence He had taken that hot, heavy coat of duty of my back and had given me freedom.

I was free to love Him or not. I could go or stay.

But He loved me. He thought of me. He knew how much I loved the ocean. His loving me was not because I read the Bible through in a year or prayed everyday for 15 minutes or went to church every time the doors were open.

He just loved me.

And I loved Him back.

I was free!

But the crazy thing is that all those things that were a burden, Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, became things I wanted to do. I wanted to know more and love more this God who thought of me and knew that I loved the ocean and loved me for just me.

Since that day, it has become my spiritual practice to take off things rather than taking them on. When I feel a church or teacher or spiritual leader begins to weigh me down with things I should do simply out of duty or to meet requirements for salvation and heaven that God has not told me in His Word, I run to that day on the beach and remind myself of my freedom!

It’s funny now that I’m writing this how God sort of taught me how to be a Spiritual Minimalist that day.

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. That’s all.

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Lent, the Beach & Spiritual Minimalism

  1. I loved this story the first time I heard it. Freedom in Christ…that’s all. And the exact kind of love that a Father knows His child needs and needs to hear.
    So glad we don’t have to follow denominations; just Him and Him only.
    Thank you, Jill, for this beautiful reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just right for me to read on this Ash Wednesday. Isn’t it amazing how God uses us to help others in ways we would never ever think of on our own just by being who we are, the way he made us. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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