I’m at El Bethel inside the toasty condo. I’m perched on the chaise lounge in the master bedroom listening to the sound of the waves as they crash onto the shore. I love this place. Everything about it screams home. It’s my sanctuary. God speaks to me here like no other place on earth.
I have big hopes for this weekend. I’ve prayed for God to show up BIG here. To bless me with His presence. To talk to each one of us in a special way. I’m so excited. This place to me is like holy ground.
With the exception of the first trip down here back in the Summer of ’09, the quest to enter our sanctuary has been challenged by Satan. He’s pretty creative in how he attempts to delay our entry into this holy of holies.
Just before New Year’s, our arrival was delayed because we missed a turn that sent us about two hours off course. Rumor has it that the turn has never been missed in the history of the condo, which just so happens to be 20+ years. We didn’t arrive at the condo until after midnight. I would like to say that it was good times – and don’t get me wrong, there were some great laughs – but all in all, being stuck in a car after a long day at work for six hours, lost in the pitch blackness of night on a country road 150 miles south of nowhere, is not cool. I don’t care who you are.
Our next journey to El Bethel was early this summer. We were giddy with excitement. (Five months is entirely too long to be away!) It was Memorial Day weekend, and so we knew traffic would be painful. Having two people in a group that delight in efficiency, we devised a plan to avoid traffic. It was genius!
Full of pride, we embarked on our journey. As you know, God isn’t a big fan of pride and being consistent like He is, remained true to His word, “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before the fall” (Prov. 16:18): three hours into our drive, we missed our exit. (NOTE: When someone says, “You’re going to get off the interstate at 106,” don’t automatically assume that “106” is the exit number. It might be the highway number.)
Just before midnight, we arrived at the condo. We had a minor setback when we closed the garage door before the car was completely unpacked, and to no one’s surprise at that point, the keypad blew a gasket (literally) and we weren’t able to finish unloading the car until the next morning. What are the odds?
Last night we began yet another pilgrimage to our safe haven. Satan was quick to respond and immediately began his assault. We couldn’t find the key, so we petitioned the throne of grace. Minutes later a spare key was located and all seemed right in the world again.
This time no exits were missed and no turns overlooked. We made great time and reached our destination unscathed, despite the fact that we almost hit what appeared to be a tiger (okay, so maybe it was a mountain lion….or a bobcat…or a coyote…they all look the same as they dart in front of your car in the middle of the night).
Unfortunately, Satan’s siege was just beginning as we spoke these eerily prophetic words: “Should we hold off in unloading the car until we check to make sure the key works?” I’m sure you could hear a pin drop in heaven as the angels gasped at the profoundness of that statement. Moments later it became apparent that the spare key was a spare for a reason. And it wasn’t because it worked.
Panic ensued for one as she approached a window in hopes of it being unlocked. Struck down but not destroyed, an attempt was made to contact a family member to no avail. After all, what are brothers for if not to answer the phone at 1 AM?
The path of least resistance (or so it seemed) was to suck it up and phone a locksmith. Spirits were lifted as there was a promise of rescue in 15-20 minutes. One hour and three follow-up phone calls later, we would get the tragic news that our locksmith had been involved in an accident and was en route to the emergency room. Of course he was. I’m sure that happens all the time.
In a stroke of brilliance and armed with an iPhone, a paperclip, knitting tools, and MacGyver-like skills courtesy of YouTube, efforts to pick the lock ensued. I have two words to sum up that plan of action: EPIC FAIL!
Another locksmith was dispatched to our location, and spirits lifted once again as our very own locksmith, who will loving be referred to as Juan Carlos, called to let us know he was on his way. What joy! However, it became evident during our conversation that Juan Carlos was not familiar with the Destin area, mainly because he was in Cuba! Okay, it was actually Miami. Same difference.
A third call was placed to a third locksmith. His name was Jimmy. He was not a dispatcher, but a real live locksmith. He speaks English, isn’t in Cuba, and is originally from Birmingham. We like Jimmy! As we waited patiently for Jimmy to arrive, we sat in the car and sang. Would I be pushing the envelope to liken the experience to Paul sitting in prison singing praises to God through his dire circumstances? Probably so, but persecution is relative, so let’s go with it. Ironically, our praise song was, “Your Grace is Enough.” While I certainly do not disagree that God’s grace is sufficient, I do have to say that sometimes having a (working) key is good too.
Jimmy arrives on-site at approximately 2 AM. Yes. That’s right – 2 AM and begins to assess the situation like Sherlock Holmes. He determines that the lock is a Titan lock, one not easily overtaken and which would require cat-like skills to conquer. The question loomed in the air….will Jimmy be able to crack the kryptonite-like lock? We literally prayed that he would.
2:14 AM – Robyn break dances in the hallway and an emergency restroom break is needed because let’s face it, we had to pee. I’d like to give a big shout-out to 24-hour CVS pharmacies with clean restrooms.
Back at the ranch, Jimmy cracks open a can of Houdini, but it would take more than Houdini to crack this lock. Perplexed, but not in despair, Jimmy takes it to the next level. The presence of a drill denotes the seriousness and humor of the situation. Drilling ensues and moments later at 3 AM, our feet walked across the threshold into our promised land.
I’m sure there are spiritual truths aplenty in this adventure, but to be honest, I’m too tired to think about them. In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow…after all, tomorrow is another day.”