Who can honestly say that they enjoy being out of control? There’s no joy when fear grips your heart and anxious thoughts go spiraling out of control. But there is joy in realizing that God can intervene in every situation, including the ones beyond our ability to control.  

The Whisper
I was praying with one of my pastors down by the river that runs through their land when the strong scent of saltwater hit my nose. I breathed in deeply—images of waves churning against a sandy shore flooding my mind. I cracked an eye open to see if my pastor was having the same experience, but her eyes remained closed. I hesitated in asking if she smelled saltwater as well but decided against doing so. Logic was trying to explain the scent away as simply being by the river even though I’d been at this river multiple times and had never smelled the ocean. Besides, if she did smell saltwater, that meant I wasn’t having the cool spiritual moment I thought I was, so I decided to put the sensory experience “on a shelf.” I’d revisit it another time with the Lord. 

A few days later, however, I smelled saltwater again in the middle of my kitchen. There was no denying this time what I was experiencing even though I wasn’t sure exactly what the Lord was trying to tell me. Maybe a month later, I was outside tending to my garden when I felt the wind pick up. The leaves on the trees surrounding me began to blow, but what I heard were ocean waves. I closed my eyes and smiled as I felt the presence of the Lord and continued to hear the roar of crashing waves. Okay, Lord. You’re obviously leading me to the beach, but where exactly am I going? The response I heard was “Cape Town.” I didn’t think a solo trip to Cape Town, South Africa, was what the Lord had in mind, so I did a local search and found Cape Charles, Virginia, instead. While not Cape Town verbatim, there was “cape” in the name and that was good enough for me. 

The Journey
Leading up to the day I was to leave, little moments of uncertainty and anxiety would try to creep in. For some reason, despite the moments of anxiety over not being prepared, I decided that being spontaneous would be more fun and hadn’t done any planning other than booking my Greyhound tickets. Is God really leading me to this place? What if something goes wrong? Am I really going on this trip alone? There was at least one moment where I told the Lord in tears that I didn’t want to go; having at least one travel buddy would be more fun even though I had been longing for some alone time with God. I made myself choose excitement as I envisioned myself staying in a cool Airbnb, walking up and down the boardwalk, trying out local food shops, and chillin’ on the beach with a good book. And yet, when my idealized version of how the trip would go didn’t translate into reality, a deeper level of panic set in. 

I had a massive bout of motion sickness for most of the hours-long road trip. Cape Charles was significantly less touristy than I imagined, which meant lodging in the city would be astronomical and lodging further away meant not having easy access to food. (There were no Ubers, Lyfts, or city-owned cabs, which only added to my worry of how I was going to find a ride back across the 17.6 mile Chesapeake Bay Tunnel.)

Lying in my motel room that first night, I was exhausted, fighting off a migraine, and my mind was being plagued with anxious thoughts because at the moment there was nothing more terrifying than being in an unfamiliar place with no idea of what the next day would look like. Lord, what in the world am I doing out here? Silence. And then the answer—“following My voice.”

Walking on the Waves
I don’t know if Peter was having a moment of spontaneity when he asked Jesus to call him out onto stormy waters (Matt 14:22-33), or maybe he, too, was just trying to listen to the Lord’s leading. In either case, all was going well until he stopped looking at Jesus and started looking at the uncontrollable circumstances around him. He couldn’t control the howling winds. He couldn’t control the turbulent waves. He couldn’t even control his ability to walk on top of the chaotic sea. And once he took note of just how dangerous the situation was, fear rushed in and he began to falter.

In tune with a beach-town vibe, my motel room was decorated with neutral grey, white, black, and hints of blue. There was a canvas on one side of the room that pictured sand dunes and rolling waves. Above my bed hung a huge, white anchor. The next morning, I sat on my bed staring at this anchor with journal and pen in hand. Anchors had held spiritual significance the past few years of my life and I knew it had to be more than coincidence that one happened to be in my room. I had often said that God was my anchor, but the Lord began to give me fresh revelation.

If we say that God is the anchor we cling to, that means that our hands aren’t free to cling to anything else. We cling tightly to our Anchor with both hands as the waves roll around us—trusting that he will be enough to hold us steady in the chaos. And yes, he gives us free will. We have the freedom to steer our boats in any direction we choose, but life is more fun when we surrender even the captain’s wheel to God’s hand. Peter was never in control of the situation around him, but he kept his eyes fixated on the One who was in control and that gave him the courage to step out into the unknown. 

Calm Amidst the Waves
Once I let go of the fact that my trip wasn’t going to go as I imagined, I was able to settle into peace and a time of true rest with God. Had I been in a more populated area, I likely would have crammed my days full of sight-seeing and rarely spent time with God as I had intended. The motel had a serene backdrop of trees, bushes, and a small walking trail alongside a creek so I was able to spend a lot of time in nature just reading and listening to the Lord. Thankfully, there was at least one restaurant I was able to get Doordash meals from. I also managed to find a privately owned cab service of sorts and spent my last day there exploring the city and a few hours walking the pier and beach. There was joy in going with the flow and trusting God with the final outcome.

I wish I could say that I’ve mastered choosing joy instead of fear or frustration when circumstances go awry, but I haven’t yet. There’s still a moment when fear presents itself as the better option. I can say, however, that I’m more apt to pause first than readily give in. This may be a lifelong process of willingly letting go of circumstances and choosing to cling to God instead, but I know without doubt that he will be faithful to sustain me no matter where his voice leads me.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This