One thing we love about living in Hamburg is that we have access to many bodies of water. We live within an hour of both the North and Baltic Seas and 20 minutes from the Elbe river, which starts at the North Sea and passes Hamburg all the way to the Czech Republic. Unfortuntely, summers are cool here, so we rarely spend time in the water!
The other day it was unseasonally warm and sunny in Germany (75 degrees Fahrenheit) and we had the day off. So, we ventured out to the beach. We unpacked our things and walked the girls to the water. Like many beaches near the North Sea, during low tide you sometimes have to walk a long way to the water. By a long way I mean it could be up to a half-mile at certain beaches. At this beach it was more like 1000 feet. After the first few hundred feet we noticed something unusual…we were walking in mud. We expected the sand to be wet, but this was dark brown, sticky, clumpy, mud.
At first, the girls thought it was so much fun. One of the few times I encourage them to play in the mud! But after a few minutes, Gabrielle’s foot got stuck in the mud, Charlotte fell over, and Madeleine got mud all over her hands and face and wanted cleaned off. We went from smiles to frowns in about 5 minutes.
This made us think about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Was the ground they walked on sandy or muddy? Did they go from smiles to frowns in 5 minutes because of unexpected difficulties along the way? Did they lose sight of their reason for crossing? Did they let surprising obstacles take away their joy?
Every day in our lives as missionaries, we encounter situations which challenge our expectations. We are learning to lower or even suspend our expecations to receive what the moment has to offer. While the practice of lowering our expectations doesn’t always come easily, it is a matter of obedience. And it really has resulted in the development of Christ-like character and increased gratitude in all of our spirits. May we choose the right outlook when we encounter a new element in a familiar place. With practice and patience, each of us can learn to see past the mud.