For a week in July this past summer, I had the honor of serving the Lord with my husband and 11-year old daughter on a missions trip in Antigua. We worked hard during the week we were there. The team was busy running a vacation bible school, feeding the homeless, and doing street ministry. After some of the long days ministering, we had the privilege of going to a beach close to where we were staying. It was a blessed treat at the end of long days in the hot tropical sun.
Being from New Jersey, our experience with the ocean is that of colder water, churned by heavy weather that often appears murky and brown. The beach on the western coast of Antigua was sparsely attended. Warm turquoise water was kept calm by a natural cove and flanked by impossibly beautiful views of the mountains and a distant glimpse of Montserrat off the coast.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the beach in Antigua was the abundance of perfect, exotic seashells. Along the shore where the water meets the sand, there are shells upon shells. Wading in the shallows, you can simply reach down and dig into the sand and come up with an unbelievable handful of treasures. We spent a lot of our downtime searching for and marveling at the seashells that were so different and prolific in this foreign paradise.
I found myself lost in the treasure hunt, kneeling in shallow water and feeling like a child discovering something for the first time. At one point, my hand was piled with an array of creamy, tan, pink, and mottled jewels from the sea. As I searched, I came up with a seashell that was entirely different from the others that were in my hand. While trying to balance it atop the stockpile I’d already collected in my right hand, it slipped from my grasp and drifted to the bottom.
Disappointed, I looked around, hoping I’d easily reclaim it since the water was so clear. No. The seashell was gone. Because I’d been holding on to so many other things, good and beautiful things, the new and unique thing had been lost. Right there in the ocean in Antigua, I was gripped with a spiritual truth and God spoke to my heart.
When I try to gather too much in my hands, I can’t receive the new thing. The new blessing, the new opportunity, the new experience. If I don’t let go of some things, I miss out on the new thing that God wants to bless me with. It’s easy to say we should let go of the negative things, things that we don’t use anymore and aren’t doing us any good. But what about when we are faced with letting go of things that are positive, in pursuit of things that are even better? Something can be good in our lives, but not be fruitful. I want fruit. If we are too busy and distracted by what we have going on, that new thing is going to slip away, just as that perfect and unique seashell did in the shallows of the Caribbean Sea.
Fruitfulness has to take precedence over familiarity.
Are you clinging to anything that needs to be set free? Maybe an activity or thought pattern that is currently part of your life has served its purpose and it is time to pursue the next level. Consider what things take up your time, talent, and resources. Maybe some of them have simply become habits, without producing fruit. Paul refers to leaving them behind as the “upward call” in his letter to the Philippians.
…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I want to heed the upward call. I don’t want to miss what God has planned for me because I am unwilling to leave what is comfortable and try something new. Fruitfulness has to take precedence over familiarity. God, help me to discern what I must lay down so that I can take up the next thing you’d call me to gather up.