“Those who love use their imagination to discover solutions where others see only problems.”
– Pope Francis
The quintessential summer vacation for a Philadelphian is a trip to the Jersey Shore. This is true especially for my in-laws: summer is not complete without a week full of cousins, biking to town, and lots of time at the beach. After a few years of missing out on the family fun, our kids couldn’t wait to go this year. They insisted on wearing their bathing suits during the two-hour car ride so they would not miss a beat when we arrived. As we pulled into the house where we were staying, we got the kids to unload their duffle bags before the constant requests to hit the beach began. With my thumbs up, they raced down the block. Ten minutes later, my 12-year-old came back in a panic. “Dad, the beach is closed. There are all these machines.” I told her to go one block down. “That’s closed too.” We went down to explore with the kids, and sure enough, the beach access surrounding our street was off limits. The state has been working on beach restoration since April with crews working along the coast to dredge sand from deep out in the ocean, extend the beaches, and build up the dunes.
After walking a few blocks, we found a spot where the project ended and where we could enter the beach. Running through the middle of this newly extended beach, there was a giant pipe that went as far as we could see. While ad-hoc sand ramps were constructed so people could walk over the pipe, there was no denying that the rusty-colored pipe - not to mention the machines and construction noise in the distance - were not a part of the shore experience we expected. As cousins joined us and the beach chair circle began to take shape (mind you, my wife’s family is about 50+ people), there was a little chatter about the pipe and the construction. However, within about two hours, I looked up from my book to see an epic volleyball-like game that had begun with the giant pipe acting as the net. Thanks to some creative older cousins, what was initially an ugly eyesore intruding on our vacation became the centerpiece of fun for uncles, aunts, and cousins alike - all week long.
As I smiled watching my children cackle with their cousins in their new favorite game, I thought about real and assumed constraints. There was no question, the pipe was real. But what I assumed would be a barrier that might ruin the week was something that created an opportunity for more fun than we could’ve imagined. In life, leadership, and faith, where else am I seeing real barriers and stopping before I can even get my feet sandy? Where are my opportunities to not only remove what’s blocking me, but engage in it, lean into it, and incorporate it into the vision? The pipeline of life will always carry some hardship. In our relationship with the Lord, are we expecting Him to turn off the spicket or to help us manage the flow?
There was nothing that was going to stop my children and their cousins from enjoying their special time together. As we continue to enjoy the summer, may we be focused on seeking special time with our Lord despite of - AND in light of - whatever barriers we face.
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