By Bethany Beams
My five-year-old son, Eli, loves both the ocean and all things dinosaur-related. When I learned about a beach near us on the Chesapeake Bay that was prime ground for fossil-hunting—specifically for shark teeth—I knew we had to go.
It’s a beautiful place. The water, the sky, the sand–it’s all peaceful and lovely. And the fossils are as abundant as promised, but they’re not found in the cliffs behind the beach because they wash into the bay when erosion occurs. I can wade into the water up to my ankles, pick up a handful of shell detritus, and immediately find at least one fossilized shark tooth. Eli, as it turns out, is quite content to play in the sand and let me find shark teeth on his behalf.
On one of our trips there, I observed a couple who had also come to look for shark teeth. I stood in the lapping shallows, putting tooth after tooth into my pocket as I listened to them become more and more frustrated. They stood directly in front of the cliffs, moving closer and closer to them, examining every square inch. After about thirty minutes, they huffed back to their car, grumbling about how misled they had been because there just weren’t any shark teeth there.
While they had been frantically and fruitlessly searching the sand near the cliffs, I had found thirty-four shark teeth in the water. All they had to do was turn around, roll up their pant legs, and step into the water.
Sometimes I think we do this as Christians, this grumbling about what we think isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Whether it’s a theological insight expressed, someone making a different decision than we would make in a similar situation, or just trying to see God’s plan in the midst of difficult circumstances, we often are incredibly annoyed at having to do any work ourselves. This annoyance can lead to a flat-out refusal to step out of our comfort zones. But what will we find if we’re not willing to get our hands dirty or our feet wet? Not much, I’m afraid.
Several English translations of Philippians 2:12 say, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The Message paraphrases this as, “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.” I found the latter wording to be incredibly helpful.
Standing still requires very little energy. Going where God has called you—living the life of salvation—is a different story altogether. If you get to your next stop and can’t find what was promised, try looking around a bit. Ask the people near you for help. Take off your shoes and wade into the water. Put forth some extra effort. Be energetic.
If you’re too exhausted from the journey to muster up any enthusiasm when you reach your destination, it’s absolutely fine to rest for a while and take it all in. Feel the breeze and smell the salt in the air. Take some deep breaths while the cuts and blisters heal. Be reverent.
Finally, if you have already been where you are for a bit, pay attention. Take careful notice of the people who come across your path and what they need. Examine the area closely for small treasures. Listen carefully to what God tells you about leaning in and digging deeper. And when it’s time to go, head out. Be sensitive.
You may find more than you thought you would.
Bethany Beams is a certified doula who can’t get enough of storytelling, which she pursues through website design, photography, and freelance editing. Her many loves include her son, napping, libraries, ice cream, singing, snow leopards, Bagel Bites, 75° weather, the color turquoise, and lists. She blogs very occasionally at bethanybeams.com.
Photograph © Bethany Beams, used with permission