I spent some time out in the ocean today. I love the beach. I love any swimming-friendly body of water, actually. And while there is some shark, stingray and jellyfish-related debate as to whether the ocean truly is swimming-friendly, I took my chances and walked out into the salty waves this afternoon with Moose. I love the water, because in the water I am weightless and free. If you've ever seen the backside of my lap, you understand how valuable and precious I find that feeling of weightlessness. I can float and kick and frolic and I am bound only by my own will as to how far I can go.
As the tide rolled in, my son and I jumped the waves. Well, I should rephrase. We jumped some waves. Other waves overtook us, and we ended up blinking and sputtering. After he grew tired from being taken down too many times, I encouraged Moose to go play in the sand with Mr. I returned to the surf, wading out into the soothing waters to rinse sand off of me. Then I sat on the shore, watching each curl of sea roll in and wash over my feet. I toyed with the sand, marvelling at the shells and pebbles. There were so many of them. Several of them were perfect, and I stashed them in the palm of my hand. My feet found a bigger shell while digging my heels deep into the sand. There's nothing like an Ocean Pedicure to scrub the rough spots from your feet. I picked up the big, thick shell and traced the edges with my fingertip. This shell was broken, but the formerly jagged edges had been brushed smooth from years of the tide rolling in and rolling out, sloughing off the rough edges with each pass. Now the edges were smooth and soft, with an elegant finish that looked bound and not broken.
I thought I was seeking perfect, whole, decorative shells. So I tossed it back into the saline surf. Wave after wave rolled in, and the polished edge shell found its way into my hand again as if the power of the sea wished it to be there. So there I sat, with this beautifully broken shell in my hand, watching and listening to each wave roll and crash into the shore. I sat and I stared and I thought and I pondered and then I felt it in my core: I am this shell. We are all this shell. We are all floating deep and shallow on this journey of life. We get broken and chipped along the way, but the warm tides of love and grace in life wash over us and smooth our sharp edges away.
Before I arose, another shell floated into my lap. This one was thinner. The friction of sand and pebbles over the years had worn this shell so thin that it had no center. It was as if life had drilled a hole through its heart, and the shell was now a wide open circle, embracing each polishing that came to it. Eventually, it wouldn't even resemble its former self. How I want to be this shell. Broken and polished and smooth and open. Open to life. Open to challenges and difficulties and trials that open me further. Opening me to truth, to love, to others.
One thing I very much love about our denomination is their "God is still speaking" message. To know and love and serve a God who is not done and finished speaking to us is a special part of my walk of faith. Since God is not finished speaking to any of us, I treasure the opportunity to hear God's voice and see God's hand in small, everyday moments. As I sat there at the ocean's edge, I looked out into the majestic waves and saw the face of God. I saw God's hand as it pulled the waters in and out, smoothing and perfecting each part of every shell. And then I thought about me. And you. We are all millions of little pieces in God's universe, but God remains actively engaging with us each day. Polishing us. Working in us. Opening us. My prayer is that as I've shared these thoughts with you, that you are able to pause from your busyness for a moment to consider how God and life is breaking you to strengthen you. Roughing you up just to polish you down. My prayer is that we are all able to remain open to the beauty and wonder of a life filled with joys and pains and peace and trials, because the combination of all of these experiences are what develop our inner grace, allowing us to share it with others and opening us to experience God in our own way.
I rose and returned into the deep to rinse the sand from my body. The waves were stronger then, as they washed me they nearly rolled me down. As I went to join my boys with shells in my hand, my legs were weak. It felt as if they'd become spaghetti. I can only surmise that those are the results of looking deep into the face of God, finding your truth there, and going forth with that truth deep in your heart.
It was either that, or I had too much sun today.