When we first got to Hawaii for our sabbatical, I felt an immense amount of pressure to have these amazing spiritual moments. I wanted to savor every second we had of this incredible opportunity, so I decided that I was going to get up early to see as many sunrises as possible and try to keep our family out late enough to watch the sun go down as much and as often as we could.
Phil and I decided to take turns getting up early before the kids to watch the sunrise and have time in silence with God. In Phil’s first experience, he had an epic encounter with God, watching the bright sun rise while having all kinds of realizations and epiphanies about life.
Now, it was my turn to wake up early, hike to the top of the most beautiful lookout point and BE TRANSFORMED. At least that’s what I thought should happen.
I set everything out the night before- coffee was prepped, my clothes were laid out and I had my bible, Lara Bar and journal all ready to go. Everything was set up for the perfect moment I had envisioned of the sun rising over the island and God pouring out His grace and wisdom upon me. For those of you that are rolling your eyes at me… What can I say? I am an idealist!
As you are probably picking up on by now, things did not go according to plan.
Somehow, even though I woke up on time and had set everything out, I was late. I pulled up to the parking lot at 6:56am and the sun was going to rise at 7:06am- I missed the sun actually rising over the horizon. At least I can have an amazing time of SILENCE and solitude, I thought. However, as I was having that thought, two buses filled with hundreds of LOUD marines pulled up and began to shuffle out onto the trail that I was about to embark upon.
My silent moment, watching the sun rise on the mountain top, had now been replaced by awkwardly trudging uphill past a ton of noisy male marines taking pictures, making awkward comments to me and then missing the sunrise all together.
The next chance I had to see the sunrise; it literally was pouring rain so I was forced to call it off and go another day.
Finally, I was able to get out again and was SO ready to have MY moment– after all, we were on sabbatical, had worked SO hard in preparation to get to this place, and had set aside this time to be filled up and refreshed. I was on time this round and ready to have the experience of my life when a large storm rolled in right as I was pulling up to the beach (in Hawaii storms can come and go in a matter of minutes). Dark clouds covered the spot where the sun was to rise and it began to drizzle.
This time, instead of being frustrated, all I could do was laugh at myself because I realized that obviously, there was something to be learned here.
I laughed at my own absurdity for trying to craft these perfect moments. I felt embarrassed for making time with God all about ME and what God should do for me. I was trying to force something that you cannot force.
So, I made a decision that morning. I decided that rather than be upset that it was not the sunrise I was waiting for, I would embrace the beauty of the storm and listen for God’s voice anyway.
This is what I saw. HOW could I miss the beauty in this?
We try SO hard to cultivate perfect “sunrise” moments, but we can’t control the sun and the clouds. We miss out on the beauty that IS in the moment because we are so focused on HOW the moment SHOULD look.
We can’t control God and when and where He will pour out His presence. Like the storms and the clouds, you cannot control the spirit of God. You cannot control how and when He chooses to meet you. You cannot force a moment or an experience of being met by him.
The sun rises the way it wants to and the clouds may or may not be hovering, but we can choose to enjoy it or not. We can choose to see beauty in the storm or to stomp our feet and complain that the sun is not rising the way we want it to.
And just because we can’t see the sun rising, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just because we can’t see what God is doing, doesn’t mean He isn’t creating something beautiful with our life. Just because we can’t see the meaning in our circumstances in the moment, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
We see only in part. That’s what faith is- it’s seeing in part and relying on God for the rest. God doesn’t always show Himself to us the WAY we want Him to and we don’t always see what He is doing and can’t see that He is there.
One day we will get the full view, but until then, I will choose to enjoy the sunrise in the storm just as I do when I can see the sun clearly. I will choose to see beauty even when everything doesn’t look the way I want it to.
Because that’s life, isn’t it? It’s messy and most often doesn’t go as planned. And it’s all a gorgeous gift. And we are given another day today, so we might as well ENJOY it and make the most of it because this is the only today we will ever have.