There has been a corner of my mind that has been constantly preoccupied with something since late summer. I wrote about the insightful impact that the Birdhouse Project, the incredible hands on self-examination project by Kris Munsch, had on me in early September. I shared that what I had not written on my foundation had nearly knocked me off my chair – but I did not say what or who was missing from my foundation. You can read about my experience with birdhouse building here.
I didn’t even tell Doug who was missing off my foundation. I tried to not even think about it too loudly for fear that someone would hear. We went to the Outer Banks for a week later that September, one of my most favorite places to walk and breathe. Doug and I get up before dawn every morning when we are there and walk the beach to watch the sunrise, the sky and sand are never the same. One morning, after a storm the previous night, the beach had changed so, the large shelf that had been there was washed away and was smooth, no trace of it left. And a single word came to me, foundation. I shook it off, I did not want to talk about it, after all it was my foundation, my secret.
And everyday since that morning, I see the beach – not the sun drenched beach with pink sky and blue water, but that grey morning with washed away sand. I hear a voice gently asking if I want to talk about it? No, I don’t, especially not with you. The voice didn’t push, didn’t pry, but it would return every so often to see if I wanted to talk about what I saw in the sand. One morning I yelled back at the voice, “I get it, okay. That was my life, washed away in a single wave, nothing is the same. If you remember, it was your wave that washed it all away, I was trying to do everything right, I thought my foundation was built on rock not sand, evidently my life was a sham, thanks for the chat, go away.” I was angry, angry that the only vision that returned from a week at my beloved ocean was the washed away sand, black, beige, and gray. Stalemate.
Mind wrestling with how all the pieces fit, exhausted from keeping a secret, unwilling to share what had unconsciously been revealed. Exhaustion sets in, resistance is lowered, I am ready to move my king and be checkmated, defeat declared, secret exposed. I tell the voice that He was not on my foundation, not Him, nor His Son, or anything related to church made my foundation. The voice tells me that He knows, and I feel no wrath, no disappointment, no accusations of being unfaithful, just a sense of someone settling in for a good talk. The conversation ebbs and flows over months, the truths elusive, one of the hardest lessons I have ever tried to embrace. This is what I do know, God is a gentle Father of conversation, he has no self-inflated ego to be wounded by his absence on my foundation. He is patient, not offended by my pushing away and not wanting to think or talk. He smiles. He waits. He welcomes difficult dialogue, stumbling words, and weary brains. He knows me. He uses what I would eventually recognize as a place of engagement, sand, ocean, foundation, so patient as I shed all the preconceived notions of what it meant. This is a God who loves to dance, and loves to wrestle, I have certainly wrestled with this day and night for months.
The foundation that was washed away was my image of God, the sand being flattened and washed clean was his work being done in me. No surprise to God that he wasn’t on my foundation of my birdhouse, he couldn’t leave any trace of what once was, it all had to be swept away. The darkness and silence like so much cold sand, was his hand. I told him that he was much different than I thought, much different than who they say you are, a half-smile, a nod, then a question, “but who do you say I am?” I halfway voice that I need to return to the ocean to answer that question, to go to that exact spot on the beach, past the last houses, by the tall dunes and see what blows in on the wind.
My head still pounds when I think of Justin, God knows that pounding, he knows the depth of loss and heartache, I don’t have to justify or apologize for my pain to God. I no longer fear the dark, there is nothing in the dark that is not also present in the light, it is just perspective. As long as I remember to keep my hands open, neither grasping to hold on to the past or the illusion that I can control all events, but to simply allow all to be like the ocean and sand. The ocean can be a beautiful mirror, calm and serene, or it can be brutal in its devastation, the sand changes every second, what once was there, is washed away in the next second. The perfect shell, just out of reach forever, the beloved child taken by water, life ever changing.
A gentle, wise elderly priest told me three years ago that I was meeting the God who carried the cross and that all would be different. This is a God whom I can put on my foundation now, and do so with integrity and authenticity, not because I should, but because I can add something else to my foundation, daughter. I am his child, and all can be washed away, but his love and Fatherhood is my birthright and cannot not be taken by wind or wave.
I may assemble my birdhouse now, my hand has stilled every time I have attempted to piece it together, but now I am at peace with my foundation.
…I have stilled and calmed my soul, hushed it like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child held in its mother’s arms, so is my soul within me. –Psalm 131