It’s been an emotionally draining month. Four weeks ago, we announced that we are moving to a new ministry (see that explained here). I preached my final sermon as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church last weekend. My wife wasn’t able to be there, because she’d had emergency gall bladder surgery the previous Thursday, and complications kept her hospitalized until late Sunday afternoon. To put it lightly, it wasn’t the weekend we had planned.
As I drove onto the church campus for the Saturday services that afternoon, I realized that I was so drained that I was having trouble finding the emotional side of the moment. That’s not like me – I’m a pretty sentimental guy. But 90% of my energy since Tuesday afternoon had gone into caring for my wife, and I’d left her at the hospital an hour earlier awaiting an MRI that would determine the next step in her treatment. It felt odd, and not at all what I had expected.
The services went well (our church is incredibly gracious), and my wife is now home recuperating. In some ways, I guess, so am I.
Today, I needed restoration. Happily, God is really good at that. La Jolla Canyon reminded me today just how good He is.
I’ve been visiting (and blogging about) La Jolla Canyon since a wildfire swept through it almost two years ago (see previous posts here, here, here and here). We finally had some rain this year in Southern California, and a visit a few weeks ago to a neighboring canyon gave me confidence that La Jolla would finally be thriving. I couldn’t wait to get there today. I expected that it would fill me up.
I wasn’t disappointed. The gray moonscape of the last few hikes was replaced by a carpet of green grass that stretched to the horizon. The ashes of burned-out vegetation are today providing soil to wildflowers of all kinds – pleasing to both the eye and the butterflies that flit about on the cool breeze. I found myself hiking through flowers that came up to my shoulders, and occasionally above my head. It was delightful, so much so that I occasionally laughed out loud as I walked.
On my first hike in La Jolla on a rainy day three years ago, I had the unforgettable experience of drinking rainwater out of a cup-shaped flower. I saw thousands of those flowers today, waiting for rain to fill them up, and maybe another hiker to refresh.
La Jolla Canyon has been restored. And so have I. The refreshment I needed was waiting for me there. The worship was sweet – I played a couple of songs in my Sabbath playlist two or three times so the words could sink into my soul. God met me there, allowing me to enjoy Him in the midst of the nature that He created, restoring me the way it had been restored.
“He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). He really does. I’m so glad for that. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like, and He occasionally uses means that surprise us. But our souls matter to Him.
They matter enough that Jesus makes this promise: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
I found rest for my soul today. I found the refreshment I needed. And I was restored.
My last preaching weekend at Grace wasn’t what I expected. But my last visit to La Jolla Canyon was exactly what I needed. Yeah, sometimes God surprises us.
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