Baby sea turtles. That's what we were waiting for.
Cute, aren't they?
We're at the tail-end of a family beach trip, and about half of the family has gone out each of the last couple nights to see if these nests of sea turtle eggs have finally reached the end of their two and a half-month gestation period and are ready to hatch. I've come to learn that there are all kinds of rules and protections in place to help these little creatures make it safely off the sand and into the water, and so we were just hoping to be respectful witnesses to their first...steps? (I apparently still have a lot to learn.)
Honestly, I wasn't all that excited, and in large part I think it was because I didn't really understand what all the fuss was about. The 100 or so people we encountered on the beach at 9:30 pm on a Thursday night, however, seemed to indicate that this was something more significant than I realized.
And so we waited.
It's dark, and while the moonlight on the ocean is quite beautiful, it doesn't do much to illuminate the sand. And we're apparently not supposed to blind the newborns with paparazzi-style cell phone flashes if and when they do come out, so I really wasn't sure how I was supposed to see these little guys if they made their hoped-for appearance.
And so we waited.
But do you know what happened next?
Not a thing. We stood there in the dark for about 15 minutes getting scoured by sand blown in 25 mph winds.
And saw nothing.
And so we left.
And as we left those that were planning to stand vigil long into the night, it got me thinking...
"What are they waiting for?"
I mean really? What's all the hoopla about? I saw Finding Nemo, and don't get me wrong, Crush and Squirt look like lots of fun, but still. I'm thinking about these die-hard turtle watchers sacrificing night after night and braving some serious recent thunderstorms in the hopes of catching just a glimpse of a few of these newborn hardshell ocean voyagers, and I realize something.
I don't get it.
Now usually when we say things like that, it's a presumption on our part that what others are doing is completely nonsensical and possibly just plain dumb.
But what I mean here is that I've never seen what they've seen. I've not experienced the miracle of these baby turtles emerging from their sandy nursery and beginning the precarious 75 yard trek to water that will mark the completion of just the first in a lifetime of challenges that will ultimately see fewer than 1 in 1,000 survive to adulthood. When you hear it like that, it kind of makes you want to stand on the sideline of their approach corridor and cheer them on...which is probably why these veteran turtle-watchers stand there night after night.
Yes, because they're cute.
But maybe more than that, because we just want these little creatures to beat the odds and make it.
Because we want to believe there's hope.
Because we want to believe that life wins.
And so as we returned to the car and drove back to the house, I found myself turning the question over in my mind again. "What am I waiting for?" Clearly it's not baby sea turtles...and that's fine. But what am I willing to wait for with veteran turtle-watcher fervor? What am I willing to wait for night after night, through thunderstorms (metaphorical or actual), with no guarantee of success? Because, you see, it's possible these little guys pop out at three in the morning when all the crowds have dispersed and simply make a quiet, unheralded entrance into their aquatic infancy. And the turtle-watchers know this. And they show up anyway.
Because they've seen something I haven't. And they're willing to endure patient waiting to see it again.
Tonight, I wasn't.
But it begs the question...
"What am I waiting for?"
The answer came, as it sometimes does, in the middle of the night. I woke up, couldn't fall back asleep, and so laid awake and let the mind wander.
And then it felt like God deliberately put his finger on this question and poked a little. What is the thing I'm waiting for like a midnight turtle-watcher?
And then it hit me.
It was on this same family beach trip -- 8 years ago, almost to the day -- that Brooke and I first decided we were ready to try and start a family.
8 years ago we decided we would begin to make a nest in which our own little ones could take their first steps into their own eventual grand adventures.
8 years ago we started watching and waiting.
And do you know what happened next?
We're still watching and waiting.
And some days, we watch and wait with the same relative lack of enthusiasm and hope that I was mustering last night on the beach waiting for baby turtles. Because really, what's the point in hoping when you've been waiting for all of 8 years (or 15 minutes on a beach) and nothing's happened.
But today, for some strange reason, my hope is renewed. Those baby turtles haven't popped out yet, but they're bound to come today...or maybe tomorrow...or perhaps Sunday or Monday. It won't matter at that point since we'll be back home and unable to witness their triumphant first crawl...
But someone will have stuck out the wait. Someone will have committed to be there to see it and greet them into new life.
What am I waiting for?
I remember now.
It's been a long wait, but I'm going to stick it out.
Because it might come today...or maybe tomorrow...or perhaps next year.
It wont' matter at that point, though, because however long it takes...
Some things are worth waiting for.