All I wanted was to get to the beach. A string of unfortunate events had put us an hour behind schedule, and now I faced a stack of interlocked carriages at the grocery store. Crammed tightly together, the red carts looked like a line of menacing, hunchbacked bulls awaiting their next victim. As I tugged at the first carriage, I had the sinking feeling I was about to participate in my first Running of the Bulls.
The carriages were jammed, but the craziness of the morning had filled me with the confidence of a matador. Granted, I didn’t have a red cape or a sword, but I glanced around for the only weapon I needed: a sanitary wipe. None in sight. Barehanded, I attacked the tangled bulls and tried not to notice that a line had formed behind me, and the arena was now surrounded by a crowd of surly shoppers. Not to mention the security camera which could land me on YouTube.
I didn’t want to give up my fight, but time was ticking, so I humbly accepted a stray cart being offered by an elderly store assistant. Slinking into the store, I walked about five hundred feet and noticed a station of sanitary wipes. Great. Now that my flesh has completely melded with the handle, they offer me a wipe.
As to be expected, my cart had a wobbly wheel. This was no day to end up with the Flintstone carriage, but I was not about to engage in another fight with the bulls. My kids were becoming impatient, and I just wanted to get in and out quickly. Except now I couldn’t find the almonds, and I walked through the maze of the store like Theseus searching for the Minotaur.
I couldn’t find any staff member to help me, because there are two types of shopping experiences. The first is when you are just trying to browse, but an officious sales clerk leeches to your back. And sometimes, like this particular morning, the aisles are filled with nothing but tumbleweeds and the eerie cricket-chirping of a ghost town.
When I finally made it to the checkout, I noticed that my cashier was wearing a cross with Jesus on it. “I like your necklace,” I said. “I’m a Christian, too.”
She self-consciously clutched her necklace and replied, “Whenever I have stress, I grab it and know that everything is going to be okay.”
I suddenly realized that I was not having such a bad day after all. It was a fighting-with-bulls-kind of day, but hardly a dying-on-the-cross kind of day.
Jesus never promised that our days would be perfect, but he did promise his peace.
My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
When we finally arrived at the beach, the warm breeze tingled my nose with salt air, and my troubles drowned in the depths of the sapphire sea. As we moved toward the water, the kids spotted a sea turtle on the shore. We ran to get a closer look, but I soon sensed that something was terribly wrong. Maybe it was the flies swarming around the turtle’s glassy eyes. Or maybe it was the turtle’s entrails strewn two feet from its body. I’m no crime scene investigator, but I recognize a butcher job when I see one.
“She’s dead,” Luke, my six-year-old, profoundly announced.
Our semi-circle formed a makeshift funeral around this mommy turtle who had given her life for her eggs. We had just studied a unit on sea turtles, and we had read about the untimely death of many of these sea creatures. The book had tried to console children by mentioning the passing of laws to protect these turtles, but Luke had asked the Question of the Year:
“But Mommy, if the sea turtles and other animals can’t read, how can they follow the laws?”
Only a child could think of such an insightful question, for it makes no sense for humans to post laws and assume that the laws of God’s animal kingdom would magically change.
Another group of kids spotted the dead turtle, but they were not as quick to grasp reality. Two older children started running and screaming, “Water! Get water! Call the rescue! Somebody help!” They only stopped acting like a circus clown act when their much younger brother examined the turtle, licked his ice cream, and announced, “Guys! I think you’re too late.”
My children seemed so full of life as I watched them frolic in the sand and sea. Their vitality was only highlighted by the lifeless turtle beside us. That hapless creature was a great reminder of the fragility of life.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
I dug my toes into the warm sand and breathed deeply. This had only been a late-for-the-beach kind of day, not a dead-on-the-beach-with-entrails-removed kind of day.
All I had wanted was to get to the beach. Thanks to a reminder from an illiterate sea turtle, my day was redeemed.