Dusk settles on a stretch of beach.

A Path Worth Following

When it came time to go to the airport, I couldn’t resist walking to the overlook to see the Pacific Ocean far below. It was the last day of a brief getaway taken after a seriously long winter. I was seeking God’s direction for the next issue of Life:Beautiful. But spring hadn’t come when promised and I felt as bland as the days had been. I wanted my high energy and my joie de vivre to return. I had been hoping that inspiration would arrive during my 72 hours on the California coast.

The place is familiar. My family trekked to this town almost every weekend when we lived nearby. Now we come for a quiet respite every few years. For some reason, it feels like home.

Beach weather along the West Coast can be moody, but recent visits have been blessed with beautiful skies. Though short, the trips usually have the low-key surprises I want on a weekend getaway—getting a free upgrade to a convertible at the car rental place or finding a wonderful little out-of-the-way grocery store that sells delicious homemade apricot bars. This trip is no different, I hope for a surprise and inspiration from God.

DAY 1: Saturday is gray and cold. So cold that heavy dew covers the Adirondack chairs sitting outside next to a patio fire pit. I use the robe from the bathroom to line a chair. Then I flip on the automatic fire-pit and cover up with a blanket. The coastline is mine for hours. I am a disappointed sunseeker waiting for God.

My Bible rests on my lap for awhile as I watch the wet grass. The surf crashes over and over against the distant rocks. I read. I look up. My mind is blank. I talk to God. I read. I repent. I wander through His Word looking for a home. I find what I’m supposed to be reading. It is good, but I sense I am still waiting. No surprise is coming today.

DAY 2: Sunday I get up early and it’s still cold with a pewter sky. I repeat my routine from day 1, but I am not alone for long. There are tourists and dog walkers. A golfer almost hits me with a ball. He apologizes in a British accent. I like his accent. Despite these distractions, I finally settle in and read the Bible and think and pray. I’m looking for it, God.

Later in the day I get my hair done. In my spirit I’m feeling as though I should cancel my appointment, sensing it might not go well. It didn’t. I tell my husband, Terry, I may get a hat for the flight home. I wash my hair again and blow it dry. I part my hair differently and tuck the snake-colored strands underneath. I don’t think a hat will be big enough. Terry wants to go out for dinner.

DAY 3: Monday, our last day, and the sun is finally awake. Figures—this trip feels out of sync with God’s plan. I am not peaceful or happy. Before packing to go home, I spend time with God but not as much time as I need. I’m still waiting for inspiration to arrive.

I step out onto the patio and the ocean calls my name. I walk to the overlook, hold onto the fence and peer down. Gazing at the rocks and sand below, I feel like I’m looking down from a two-story rooftop. I can see further out, where the beach and the ocean dance. There is a woman looking for shells with her dog. She looks happy.

I think about taking the long path leading to the stairs that will take me to the beach. Too late. We need to go to the airport. We planned a brief side trip too. I should have gone to the beach yesterday but it was gray. Now, I realize the color of the sky should have been inconsequential to me—it’s all a majestic Work of God.

In hours the beach will be 2,000 miles away. I look back at the sliding door to our hotel room and yell to Terry that I’ll be right back. I hurry. I can touch the ocean and we can still make the flight. The side trip isn’t important. My feet move quickly along the sidewalk the dog walkers had followed the day before. I know this path. I’ve walked this way before.

As I walk along a bluff overlooking the beach, I realize there’s no protective fence to keep me from going over the cliff. Instead, the path is guarded only by a white rope tied to stakes pounded knee-high into the ground next to the sidewalk. The rope is intended to deter people from walking on the grass. But just a couple of steps and you go over the edge into thin air. Along the way are little signs that say, “DANGER: UNSTABLE GROUND, MUST STAY ON PATH.” If you fall, death would be the wicked prize.

Weeks earlier, I’d assigned a writer to work on the Lessons story for the Summer 2014 issue. I told him that I felt led to cover the Ten Commandments. We agree on the truth of the commandments and believe they are protective instruction for successful living, even in this modern day.

The rope and signs guide me in the much the same way as God’s Word and His commandments help me stay on a Christian path in life. I know I don’t have to obey any of these rules. I am free to go to the edge. I can fall over the proverbial cliff and drop to the sandy earth below, if I choose.

I take the wooden stairs to the beach and run to the water. I roll up my pant legs as cold ocean water rushes over my feet. A smile comes over my face and my eyes well with tears. I am more free than I have ever been. My heart fills with love for God. And again, He surprises me.
Photography by Catherine_Elizabeth/Istock