After months of planning, dreaming, talking, saving, we arrived at Hilton Head Island. In the middle of a horrendous downpour. Unable to do the anticipated mad dash to the beach, we instead unloaded, unpacked, and headed to the grocery store to buy what we would need for the week. By the time we got back to our villa and had supper it was no longer raining, but it was also completely dark.

Despite the late hour, I still wanted to touch the beach... to see the ocean... even if by a moonlit sky. We were only a short walk over the boardwalk away, after all. And it had stopped raining. And it was our first time ever at Hilton Head. And my first time ever to see the ocean... and so we went.

As we walked across the boardwalk in the dark, I thought about my only other attempt to visit the ocean. I was eighteen years old with a friend of mine. We set out on the road for Virginia Beach, only to have the transmission go out on our car in the middle of the night in West Virginia. Days later with a brand spankin' new transmission we headed on... only to arrive in Virginia Beach in the middle of a tropical storm that had all local beaches closed. We spent one night within walking distance of the ocean, yet I headed home never having laid eyes on it.

This trip would not be the same. Come storm or high water or late arrivals- I would see the ocean. And not just the glimpse we could catch from our balcony... I wanted to touch it. To take in the enormity of the OCEAN... to gaze out over the endless waters and marvel at the fact that God measures all of it in the cup of His palm. I wanted to be overwhelmed... by the ocean, by the beauty of creation, by my God.

As we neared the ocean, the remnants of the evenings storms were still palpable in the air. The wind was rushing into our faces, making the perfect towel-cape blowing scenario for an eleven year old boy.  Yet within me was a growing unease. We passed only four people on the entire boardwalk. We saw no lights and heard no other voices in the night air. The roar of the waves grew louder. And with clouds overtaking the moon, darkness closed in on us as we stepped from the boardwalk to the beach. 

Jim, having been to the beach many times marched onward toward the waves. Tali, flashlight in hand followed close behind. Zach stood with me on the beach path for a few minutes, then seeing that nothing swooped in and swept away the rest of his family, he joined his sister and dad further down on the beach.

And I stood, frozen. The ocean was so LOUD. Why didn't I realize it would be so loud? A short distance away I could see the white waves crashing against the shore but other than that there was only the black of the night sky meeting the black of the water.  With the wind howling around me, darkness surrounding, and the roar of the ocean overtaking my senses… I was gripped with fear.

A couple came stumbling toward me as my family giggled a few yards down the beach. “Be careful!” the guy laughed… “you’ll get lost!” The girl picked up where he left off telling me about their nighttime adventure strolling the beach. Their words were full of joy… and yet they drove the stake of terror deeper into my heart. Lost?! The couple wandered away, giggling and holding hands.

“Let’s come back tomorrow” I called out to my family. They were straying too far into the darkness for my liking. While I couldn’t really see the ocean, I could feel it’s power and immensity. I was overwhelmed in the purest sense of the word. I was paralyzed with fear and terrified for my family to go any farther on the dark beach.

My son ran by me, towel over his head and flying behind him in proper fashion. Tali investigated something with her flashlight. Jim called out for me to come join him. But my feet would not move from their spot at the end of the boardwalk. Fear was gripping me, growing from a nagging concern deep in my heart to an overwhelming anxiety and confusion. I couldn't make sense of anything, it was all so unknown. As hard as I strained into the darkness I could only see black with a bit of white foam interrupting sporadically. 

Once, it took a storm to keep me from realizing my dream of walking in the ocean. This time, it took only my own fear of the unknown. I was 37 years old, standing on the shore for the first time in my life, and I was terrified. 

As I stood there, I could hear God whispering... teaching. I had come to the ocean to see His face, in a way. I wanted to TOUCH the immensity of the ocean that He holds in the depth of His palm. I wanted to look farther than my eye could see and know there was STILL MORE… that the waters went on and on and on and on. That they went down to depths I can't even imagine… just like this God that I love. Just like this God that loves me.

But we want to meet God in the bright light of day. In the comfort of a church sanctuary, or in the blessing of a new baby. We don't want to meet God in the darkness... when confusion and chaos abounds and all we hear is the roar of His power.

How many find themselves frozen at the end of the boardwalk when God is right there. Unable to see clearly, we don’t know where to step, or what this journey will require. How far can we go and be safe? How far can we go and not get lost? What if it overtakes us? What if it literally overwhelms us, sweeping over our heads and requiring everything? What if?

I looked at my family’s reactions to the exact same beach in the exact same dark with the exact same wind blowing their faces and the exact same ocean roar assaulting their ears.

My husband, having been to a beach at night before knew that there would be soft waters at the edge to warn you that you are close. He understood the gradual slope of a natural beach, and how far one would have to go to get even knee deep in the dark waters.  If he feared, he did not show it. He trusted what he knew about the ocean and the beach… and he marched confidently toward the waves.

My daughter, flashlight in hand and close behind the one she knew would never, ever lead her into danger didn't register a hint of fear either. She had a bit of light in her hand to illuminate her steps immediately before her, and was close to one that she trusted.

My son, hanging back at first. Pacing fearfully… yet anxious not to miss out on a single adventure this vacation had to offer. Waiting to make sure dad and sister were okay- then running with abandon around the beach.

They were not hindered by fear, at least not their own.

They were not hindered by fear, until I called out to them to return. Until they heard it in my voice, despite my chipper “let’s come back in the morning, when it’s light… We can come back when we can see and explore”… I am certain they all knew from my frozen stance on the beach that mom was not comfortable with this scenario. Not one little bit.

They were not hindered by fear, I until hindered them with mine.

Today we returned to the same beach by the same boardwalk. The wind is blowing in my face as I type these words. The roar of the ocean drowning out the squeals of nearby children.

But it’s entirely different in the light of day.

The ocean has not changed. It is still immense. Powerful. As I waded out in it this morning, waves crashed over my head and I cried out with delight. Psalm 42:7  immediately came to mind… “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Literally His waves and breakers swept over me. And in the Light… it was welcomed and beautiful.

Before we know God… before we have His Light… He is so much. The power and the might and the majesty is just… too much. It is too dark and too frightening… too awesome. And we are overwhelmed. But if we would trust one who had walked before us, or take with us a tiny hand held light from His Word, or look to those running with abandon even in the unknown of His presence… maybe then we would have the confidence to step out of our fear and into the enormity of who He is.

Having met the ocean in the light, I’m curious what my response will be if we return tonight. I have a feeling that, having known the Light I will now have the confidence to explore even in the night.

When I came to the Lord, it was initially terrifying. I looked into my sin stained life and knew… the requirement would be high. I knew that He wasn't a God satisfied with a portion, but that in time, He would want it all. Everything. But, like the sun rising in my life I could see His beauty. I could see both His immensity, and the gentle way He crashed to the shore… the gradual slope of the beach into His depths. Even how, if we plant ourselves in beach chairs a safe distance from the crashing surf… He will eventually make His way to us with His rising tides tickling our toes.

Last night as we returned to our villa, not having touched the ocean, the Lord asked me if I was willing to trust Him in the dark, as well. To trust Him in the unknown… to trust Him in the dreams He has planted in my heart. To know that He is the same God at night as He is during the day… to take my knowledge of His gentle surf into the darkness with me. And to TRUST.

I wonder, reader, where you are in your experience with God? Is He still an overwhelming unknown? Take comfort in the scripture that says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”… know that as He did with me, on this beach last night… He will meet you in your fear, and begin to teach you the unsearchable truths of His Kingdom. Also remember that this is only the beginning of wisdom- He never desired that we would stay in this place. Rather He tells us that perfectlove casts out all fear! Take a step into the unknown, and then like dawn His light will begin to shine over your life. You will see and know the wonders of our Lord…

Or maybe you are like me… you have been walking with the Lord for some time now. You have known His miracles and seen His good works. You have seen His hand of protection and providence in your life. You have learned to trust Him in the light… but now the path before you is uncertain. It’s big and frightening and it seems as though it may overtake you. He wants you to be reminded today that He is the same God in the dark as He is in the light. He is the same God in the day as the night. He is the same God who met you in your first adventure on the beach, and He is the same God that will be there when your dream is within reach. He is the same.

Don’t let your fear tell you anything differently. Don’t let your fear cause you to focus on the roar of His power and miss the gentle tickling of the surf on your toes. Don’t let your fear convince you that the darkness will win. Don’t let your fear hold you captive at the end of the boardwalk.

Don't let your fear hinder you. 

Don't let your fear hinder the ones you love.

I wish this tale was one of a family who, in their excited first night at the beach, giggled and ran along the shoreline. How we got lost… and then found our way again. How we made memories that first night that will last a lifetime. But instead, my fear caused us to turn just shy of the ocean and return to the safety of what we already knew. I let my fear keep them from a memory, hold me back from putting my toes in the ocean...

Today we get a re-do. Today we sit at the beach and enjoy the surf and take in the wonder of God's
handiwork. Today, I stood at the edge of an endless ocean and cried tears at the enormous beauty of it all. Today we played in the surf and napped at the waters edge. Tonight we can walk to the beach again, and take with us the knowledge of what we saw in the light. I can step into the unknown confidently, taking with me the lessons learned last night.

We don't always get a re-do in this life. Friends, don't let your fear of the unknown you paralyze you at the end of the boardwalk. Don't let the dream you can't see clearly fade into the distance as you return to the thing you have already known. Don't miss out on adventure with our great, big God because His power seems so overwhelming in the darkness of this life.

Step into the sand. Let the enormous power of the ocean meet you with gentle surf. Take it all in.

Don't let fear hinder you... or the ones you love.