Lesson from Tybee Island
We are an Exodus people. At any given time we are at Point A moving toward Point B. No matter our personal Egypts, regardless of who or what is an enslaving pharaoh to us, most of us want to be on a path to something or somewhere better.
We look for those pillars of cloud and fire to guide us along the way we should go. We rely on a variety of maps: scripture, reason, experience, even biographies of people down through the ages. These tools are “rules of the road” pointing us along our particular spiritual paths.
Travel plans not going as you’d like? Read Paul’s letters in the New Testament, especially accounts of being shipwrecked, imprisoned, or otherwise detained. Check out the lives of the capital “S” Saints, and the lives of ordinary people, the other saints. When we read their stories, time and again we see that detours and unexpected circumstances (especially the hard ones) were important parts of the journey that moved people along on unique paths that ended up in the very place where they were needed, and where they needed to be.
This simple lesson is important to me because my current path is a lonely, obscure one. It’s night. I can’t see the next step. I don’t know where I’m going, just the one guiding me.
On a visit to Savannah last summer I had an inner nudge to visit nearby Tybee Island. I often resist these promptings, either by ignoring them or arguing against the suggested action. Despite the stubborn insistence that another day would be just as good, the sense to visit right then remained strong. Stopped at an intersection, I had to make a choice: to the northwest to the hotel or east to Tybee Island? I headed toward the hotel. There! I promised to go to Tybee Island the next day.
Wouldn’t you know it? A few blocks from the intersection I encountered the unexpected. The road didn’t go as it appeared on the map. I couldn’t get to the hotel along the direct route indicated. Instead, the only option was to take a one-way street. Heading east. The narrow, bricked street held me hostage because it permitted no options to turn until outside the city’s central area. The first major road I came to was the very one I’d avoided a few minutes before. The Road to Tybee Island.
To Tybee I went, muttering the whole time about being tired, about not being dressed for the beach, about never finding a place to park. Each objection was met with a simple, positive answer. With a sense of being directed purposefully, I felt energized. One street after another was lined with cars, but I immediately found the lone parking place on the one street I turned down on a whim. With a suitcase in the trunk, I changed into beach-friendly clothes.
After walking up a small dune to the beach, I spotted a glider; it was incongruous with the surroundings and the only one within sight. Sitting on that sea-worn wooden glider, looking out at the Atlantic and the commercial ships aiming for Savannah’s port, I thought about the sequence of actions that led to that spot. I was confident that I was supposed to be there even though there was nothing seemingly important about it. No awesome insights, no so-called divine appointments. Just a day at the beach.
“Why am I here?” I asked, almost out loud.
A still, small voice echoed back clearly: “Because I can get you where you need to be.”
Throughout the past year, there have been many instances when the only question to ask was: “Why am I here?” Situations prompting the question haven’t made sense. When I examine the sequence of events leading to a moment, or even a particular geographical location, when I ask “why?” I hear the same refrain I first heard at Tybee Island: “Because I can get you where you need to be.”
Looking back at the Tybee Island experience, I see that it was an important lesson to learn when the stakes were low in order to use it when they are high.
From a perch a thousand feet above Santa Fe, I lookout toward the western horizon that lies at least 60 miles away wondering how I got here. And, more familiarly, why? From my perspective this specific experience makes no sense in the current scheme. Yet, I can relax, assured that this is not an accident. It’s been intentionally and carefully planned. I hear again and again that gentle voice answer all my why? questions. “Because I can get you where you need to be.”