This week finds me in Florida attempting to relax my mind, if not my body entirely. I always have a desire to get out and experience nature, as well as seeing interesting local sights. I received some inspiration from a very unusual source a couple days ago. It is a short illustration or story that I read in the Beach Welcome Center’s 2023 Annual Magazine Visitors’ Guide. Most of the magazine is filled with ads for various activities and restaurants in the Tampa Bay and nearby gulf area. There are also tidbits about the area’s history and facts about wildlife. I read this story, probably fictional, that made a few connections with me, so I thought I would share it with you. There is no author credited, but the website given is BeachWelcomeCenter.com. The editor of the publication is Christine Phares.
Once upon a time, there was a wise old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself when he thought of someone who would dance through the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw a young man, but the young man wasn’t dancing. Instead, he was reaching down into the sand, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. As the wise man came closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?”
The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I guessed that, but why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
“But, young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down and picked up another starfish. He threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
This story connected in my mind to the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-7. While not an exact parallel by any means, it, like the story above, reminds us of the value of each individual. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
I believe that God uses believers to reach His lost sheep. It might be tempting to think, “Gee Joel, I’m not a preacher, missionary, pastor, or teacher. Really, how much of a difference can I make?”
A couple days ago Pastor James shared the story of his sister, who works for a dentist. She shared a devotional with him, and he comes to work excited to share what he read and has learned about God each morning. Can she help everyone, and make a difference for everyone who needs God and His guidance? No, but it made a difference for that one.
Take heart and be encouraged!