I was blessed to be taken to Maui recently, and was surprised and the contrast between what I thought I would be seeing and experiencing, and what I actually did! Even as we flew in I was taken aback at the barrenness of the land…. I had thought it would be lush and rain foresty, but instead plants were struggling to take hold on the volcanic land, (although we did fine the lush side of the island during our exploring). The island was buzzing with tourists, seemingly segregated from the locals. And the luxury resorts seemed a far cry from the simple homes we saw. Yet the two realities lives side by side, interfacing where necessary and otherwise kind of invisible to the other. So I was even more thankful for Franko, the young man who I have known since he was six years old, who was there with us. For Franko, once a quiet boy, was eager to meet and talk to the locals. We went off some beaten tracks and, at most places we stopped, he sought out someone who looked like they lived on the island to strike up a conversation with. From the shaved ice employees to the reverend selling scuba tours, from the guy by the side of the road selling coconuts to the dog owner at the beach, from the surfers to the self appointed turtle protector, Franko drew the locals out to share about their life on Maui.
These encounters enriched my understanding and appreciation of the island… and it was so fun to see Franko in a new light! The stories we heard were ones of hope…. Of how the turtle population had grown over the last 15 years to a point where they were no longer endangered, but moved to the protected species list…. And of struggles. Ones of dreams being lived out, and of financial hardships being endured.
As I flew home I reflected on how these were the things that had most touched me. The sharing of lives and stories. And, along with some deep spiritual experiences I had, are the things that will stay with me the longest.
It made me sad to think how many people go to places like Maui and don’t take the opportunity to truly experience where they are. Many stay in resorts, hang out in the tourist areas surrounded by other tourists, stay on the beaten tracks, shy away from anyone who looks different and ignore those who are scrambling to make a living selling coconuts! They may think they have experienced the culture by going to a luau, or eating in the trendy places, but what beautiful depth has been missed.
I think our spiritual lives can be like this too. We stay at the surface without digging deep. We see what is apparent and leave it at that without seeing what treasure might lie beneath that. It can be like me saying, “Yes, I went to the top of the volcano to watch the sunrise. It was pretty.” Yet not listening to message in that sunrise that God whispered into my heart. How often do we just say a prayer and not stop to listen for a response, or feel a stirring of the Spirit and move on quickly before She can change us!
I encourage each of us to dig a little deeper…. To go beyond the easy touristy sights and invite the stories behind them, to wait and listen and share and pay attention to the things that are easy to miss as we get swept up with the currents of life. To see beyond the glitz and glamor and find the true treasures.
May it be so!
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