A few nights ago my husband and I headed to the beach with a blanket and beach chairs hoping for a front row seat to watch the sunset. The unseasonably warm January weather drew many ocean lovers out that night. It was a special night, the kind you don’t want to end.
We intentionally parked ourselves close to the water so our view would be unobstructed. Seagull and sandpiper joined us for the show as stunning ribbons of pinks, purples and golden light began to dance on the horizon before us.
Just as the sun was turning into a vibrant ball of fire, my husband was drafted to join the beach photo shoot. I don’t know if it was where we were sitting, our age, or what – but it was picture time and he was asked to accommodate. One couple wanted a romantic shot with the sun as their backdrop. A set of teenage girls wanted the sun to rest between the heart sign they made with their hand, while another guy next to him was trying to get the sun to appear to be balancing on his knee. I couldn’t believe it.
As my attention shifted from the sunset to the photo-op/comedy show next to me, another man came along. He walked up to the shoreline in jeans and collared shirt with rolled up sleeves. He was alone. He looked pensive, and in deep thought. His eyes were fixed on the horizon. He seemed to be standing at attention with his head slightly tipped upward giving him an unapproachable look.
I was close enough to see his facial expressions. The very slight twitches in his brow, around his eyes and lips were the only physical movement he made in the fifteen minutes he stood watching the sunset. He never repositioned his feet or took his hands from his pockets. I wanted to know what he was thinking so badly. Was he praying? Did he come to watch the sunset every night? Was he deeply troubled or was he filled with deep peace? Who was he?
It was clear he was not to be interrupted. I couldn’t just intrude on him like the other photo hungry folks did with us. Or could I?
I believe I missed a moment custom made for me, a potential treasure hunt sent from God. That young man had a story – I’m pretty sure of that. Whether I had something to give him or him to me, is irrelevant. I knew as we walked away, the opportunity would fade into a memory like the sun into the ocean.
We are incomplete without each other, people need one another. God set it up that way. Fulfillment comes when we risk an encounter and allow our lives to intersect. At any given time we are surrounded by the embodiment of thousands of divergent stories milling around us. I don’t want to feel uninvited, intimidated or powerless to engage with the silent status quo I call my neighbors or my community.
I’m glad I have the young man’s picture to serve as a reminder and a challenge. People are worth the risk of discovery. Everyone has a story, they just need to be asked to share it.
How about you? When’s the last time you risked going on a sacred treasure hunt set up for you by God?
“See to it no one misses the Grace of God” Hebrew 12:15