Several days ago Jane and I took a stroll on Clearwater Beach. It was a very long stroll. As a teenager I used to borrow a friend’s boat for a short ride to Caladesi Island, a small spit of land just north of Clearwater Beach. When the pass between Clearwater Beach and the island began to fill in with sand, a decision was made to let nature take its course. Now it is possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to the Caladesi on dry land.
It turns out the distance between these two points is 5 miles, so we travelled 10 miles round-trip. Who would have thought? It certainly never seemed that far by boat. The first three miles of our journey weren’t too bad, but we soon realized we should have brought some water along. A little extra sunscreen would have been nice too.
I felt certain we were hydrated enough to finish the first 5 mile leg to the island. Once we were there we could buy some drinks and refuel for the trip back. Well, that would have been possible had I remembered to bring money. That’s right. We were a little over halfway to our destination, walking along a desolate stretch of beach, without water or money to buy what we would need to guarantee a safe return. I really shouldn’t have dropped out of Boy Scouts when I was a kid.
So we walked on. That’s what you do when you are over halfway to your destination. It is closer to keep walking than it is to go back, and you trust once you arrive you will find what you need.
The good news is, we make it safely to the island snack bar. We broke one rule on the boardwalk that required us to wear shoes. Yup, we were barefoot too…barefoot on a 10 mile march on a beach in Florida, with no water to our name and no extra sunscreen. Don’t blame Jane. I kept telling her the snack bar was right around the corner. I nearly led us into the valley of death permanently.
Now that I am in my late 50s, I have been thinking some about eternity. Don’t get me wrong. I have thought about heaven since I was a five-year old in my “Little Angels” bible class. But now I am much closer, and it is more of a reality. I am three miles into the journey and have two miles to go. And once I arrive, there is no reason to return. When I get to the end, there will be plenty of water there. It will flow from the throne of God like a river, and continue past the tree of life.
My father once told me, “I now know more people in heaven than I know on earth.” My dad knew a lot of people on earth, but I think I am beginning to realize what he was saying. When the distance between here and there is less than the distance we have already traveled, we begin to frame our days differently. We think more about finishing well and bringing glory to God with the time we have left. And even though we grow parched, we don’t distress. We have come this far by faith and we know the Lord will sustain us until our forever refreshment.
When we are on the back side of the journey, we can grow weary. We might even fear we won’t make it. But God has reassured us He will not desert us. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
The good news is, when Jane and I arrived at the snack bar, the kind woman behind the counter filled us up with some free ice water. She even gave us some water to take with us on our journey back. Five miles later, we were sunburned, a bit thirsty and tired, but so happy we had taken the trek together.
My guess is there are people reading these thoughts who wonder whether or not they are going to make it to the end of the journey. Maybe you are emotionally exhausted and spiritually dry. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know this: once you enter a path with the Lord, just keep walking. He will make sure you arrive at your destination. And don’t discount the value of the hunger and thirst you are experiencing. It only makes the stream of life that much sweeter. In fact, even now you can taste it. Even in the arid land God pours life into our souls.
Walk on. You aren’t far from the end of your journey.