“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Mid-December was a special time for my family. My husband, son, and I traveled 600 miles away to attend my daughter’s college graduation ceremony. We celebrated her accomplishments thus far with family at a post-ceremony reception at a local beachfront resort.
The beach there is situated on a small island; it’s beautiful. Sandy shores, lots of shells, and a gentle surf. Not yet overpopulated, the only construction near the end of the island is an occasional beach mailbox. Daily temperatures ranged from the mid-to-high 70s to low 80s, making long evening walks comfortable.
The picturesque, peaceful scene certainly invites exploration. Out for a walk one night with my husband, I spotted a shell whose inhabitant was still inside. I left it there on the beach, hoping the tide would rise soon and take it back out to sea.
The morning we left to return home, I decided to go out for a run on the beach. Distracted by my morning coffee and the beauty around me, I walked for a while before starting my running app. I kept stopping and picking up shells along the way and I started talking to Jesus.
Walking and praying in that beautiful place, I thought about living at the beach in the future and started making a mental plan to achieve that goal. Along my walk, I found someone’s saved pile of large shells. I wondered if they would ever return to claim them.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever found a large shell,’ I said to Jesus internally and kept planning a beach move and searching along the shore. Once my coffee was finished, I placed my small shells in a safe place to pick up after my run, and started jogging.
The first half of the trip was uneventful. I struggled to get used to running on the sand. Along the way, I spotted a mailbox. “Leave a Note,” was painted on its front and sides.
Then, a few minutes later, the island ended. As I turned and ran in the opposite direction, I looked down and saw a large, perfect half shell. I picked it up and kept moving. Amazing. A larger shell appeared. The shells kept arriving and growing in size with every step it seemed. I picked up five and couldn’t hold more. As I passed my husband who was walking along the shore I passed them to him and continued running.
I found the clam from the night before in the same place, so I scooped it up and tossed it back out to sea.
The Christian music mix I was listening to changed to “This is not where we belong. We’re headed for the kingdom.” (Not Our Home by Jonathan and Emily Martin) I looked down again and began to see black large square lumps of stuff that didn’t look like it belonged in the ocean at all mixed in with the shells. Tar? Remnants of drilling? Debris from ships?
‘What are you doing, Abba?’
The black stuff kept appearing. I certainly didn’t see it the night before or on my first pass through the same area less than an hour before. It made the beach seem less pristine, the mailing address less appealing.
I heard in my heart, “This world is passing away.” As I put the events together, I knew God was saying to keep seeking His kingdom.
Here is the conflict. On one hand, God tells us to seek His kingdom and “all the rest will be added unto you.” On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples gave up everything and followed Him. Even the boat and large catch, they left behind for others.
I don’t doubt that God will provide but living in a world of abundance makes a simple life difficult. What exactly is “all the rest?” Is he referring to things like beach houses or His gifts? A simple existence is a choice that must be made daily and thanks given daily for the blessings He gives.
I believe–I know–that the Lord’s gifts are the most valuable and they are my choice. Some days, however, I lose focus. May God grant us the grace to remain focused on His will for our lives, and growing His kingdom here and now.