Two weeks ago, I headed to a beach house in North Carolina with my pregnant sister, her husband, a couple of their closest friends, and my dearest friend in the whole world, Steph. It would be my first real vacation in years, and I was ready to, in addition to having extremely long, productive, life-changing quiet times with God, accomplish several personal goals, including regular morning runs, a tan for my pasty Irish skin, the consumption of healthy food, and at least five edifying novels during my time on the beach.
The only goal I managed to achieve of the 10 I initially set for myself was to stay off the internet.
In all other aspects, I was a total failure.
The health food was the first to crumble—have you ever had North Carolina barbeque? I made my brother-in-law stop at the same place on the way to and from the island so I could enjoy the same pulled-pork sandwich twice in a row. My stomach yearns to eat like that more often.
Running was a sham—I ran for exactly three minutes, on the second to last day of vacation. I think one more minute would have killed me.
I read half of one book.
Concerning my life, I figured out . . . nothing.
It was in this nothingness that Jesus restored sanity to my soul.
One night, I stayed up later than everyone else and sat on the deck, soaking up the ocean waves and Scripture before I went to sleep. Alone with the water, I flipped through the Psalms and landed on Psalm 116:7: "Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you."
Gazing over the vast Atlantic, something of the hardness inside me began to melt at the thought of these truths: I am insignificant; I am a tiny grain of sand; I will fail; and, next to the greatness of my God, I am a stupid sheep.
What a relief, I thought.
I'd spent so much time recently trying my hardest to do, win, be, succeed, that I'd forgotten, once again, that God is in control. That he is always good. And that he does actually want me to enjoy life, not just win at it.
Yes, it's okay that I have goals. It's healthy. But to live a life hidden in Christ means placing those goals at the foot of the Cross, then backing away.
I've learned that, instead of viewing my days as one never-ending checklist, I can relax and surrender, because there are more important things God calls me to do: like glorify him. Or love the people he's placed in my life. Or simply have fun.
For the rest of my vacation, I settled into the practice of enjoyment. I stared at the ocean with wide eyes. I didn't wear a stitch of makeup. I made dumb jokes and quoted funny movies with my friends and family. I listened to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. I talked to my sister. I didn't think about how to solve or fix anything. I felt the sand on my feet and studied seashells, wondering at how God managed to create such perfect homes for the tiny creatures that live in the sea. I barely showered. I boogie-boarded. I stared at the ocean some more.
It was awesome.
When I returned to the daily grind, I faced many of the problems I thought I'd left behind. But now, every time I start to sense that my lists, goals, and problems are taking over and overwhelming me, I close my eyes.
When my eyes close, I remember what the ocean looked like, and think of how the vastness of God dwarfs even the deepest seas. I remember feeling completely free of my burdens, and picture myself walking onto that North Carolina beach, standing with my neck craned upward, in awe of the sky. I'd never seen so many stars. Or maybe, I'd never given myself the time to look up at them before.
Suddenly, I'm grateful to be a mere speck of sand on the beach.
Ashley Moore is the editorial coordinator for Today's Christian Woman, GiftedforLeadership.com, and ChristianBibleStudies.com, and is also a contributing writer to the TCW blog. Follow Ashley on Twitter @ashgmoore.