Everyday Spirituality

Posts tagged ‘sand’

The Sands of Grief

In a few days it will be one year since losing my best friend. As we tend to do when looking back I have tried to process the last twelve months.

At first there was the acceptance that she really was gone. The days when I missed her physical presence…The times I wanted to pick up the phone and call her…The questions I still had to ask her…The advice I missed getting from her. And so much more; like just being able to hug her and feel her hugging back in response.

At first part of me felt so paralyzed…almost lost. I knew that life would go on with or without her. I knew we would survive even with this huge void in our lives. But I did not like it one tiny bit.

When I was a young child we would often go to the beach early in the morning. If we could not be there by eight o’clock mother was not happy.

My mother wanted us to be on the sand and in the water before it got terribly hot. I remember being fascinated with the way the water would fill up any whole you made in the sand. You would dig your fingers into the sand and just as quickly it flowed back to fill up the whole. The sand on the beach has the quality of holding water in itself.

In the early days following her death I would go about my daily routines. Thoughts of her would rush in to fill whatever space available. I could be driving and thoughts of something we did together would rush into my mind.

Just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be alone in the kitchen cooking and thoughts of times we cooked together would rush into my heart. I could see us standing together chopping and sharing our dreams. Or discussing how to cut the cucumbers. Thoughts rushed in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

I could be praying in our church filled with Sunday worshippers and thoughts of the many times we prayed together would rush into my heart. I could feel her presence as we joined together in praying to Our Father in heaven. These thoughts and feelings would rush in just like the sand on the beach would fill the hole as quickly as I could dig.

You cannot stop these thoughts and feelings from filling the spaces in your heart, mind, and soul. You cannot control these thoughts and feelings any more than I could control the beach sand. I could not stop the sand from rushing into my little hole unless…I moved farther away from the shore line.

As time passes it seems as though you have moved farther away from the shore line. The thoughts rush in less frequently, but still present.

One of the interesting facts about sand is that it is made of remnants of the past…               So it is with grief.

Sand actually comes in different sizes. Most sand feels gritty between your fingers. But some sand, like silt, feels as soft as baking flour… So it is with grief.

Because of the chemical makeup of sand, usually containing quartz, it is weather resistant. Just as it is with grief, sand comes in several different colors depending on its physical contents.

One day grief feels like depression…one day grief feels like gratitude…one day grief feels like regret…one day grief feels like solitude…one day grief feels like overwhelming love…one day grief feels like deep peace and one day grief feels like profound joy.

We find sand in many environments from the seashore and the desert to the mountain tops. The waters of grief can flood your heart and soul when you least expect them. Grief can leave you in the desert to face and wrestle with your feelings of being alone and empty. Finally you realize it is grief that makes you appreciate the mountain top. It is the grief that guides you to seek out the mountain top. The beauty of grief is that it enriches your future.

On the mountain top…you can rejoice in what fills your heart and soul.

On the mountain top… you can let the sands blow.

On the mountain top you can be content in knowing that your heart will always hold the one you love.

If you ever want to amaze yourself about sand just go to the Wikipedia where you can learn how sand is used in things from concrete and bricks to beautiful transparent glass. You can even smooth your toes while at the beach by digging them in the sand.

Beauty lies within the wholeness

of the grief we experience…

be on the lookout for its presence.

Grief can became a treasured

piece of sculpture.

God is constantly surrounding us with his goodness.

Desert Terminal

The word terminal can either be used as an adjective or more frequently as a noun.

Most of the time when I am using the word terminal it is associated with making a journey…taking a trip…going on vacation.

 

I usually use it as a noun, but I was reflecting today on how in our English language we came to use this same word “terminal” in a very different context. How did we decide to use “terminal” to mean end of life…eminent death? The dictionary says “terminal” is of or relating to an end, extremity, or boundary. The dictionary continues…leading ultimately to death…being in the final stages…extreme or hopelessly severe.

 I am accompanying my dearest friend on this “terminal” journey. I also am thinking about the place where this terminal awaits. This terminal is in the desert. We are not willingly or joyfully making this journey. It just is a journey we must take together. This desert journey is hot, dry and we are often choked by the dust.

We reluctantly began this journey carrying our luggage. Don’t you need luggage for a journey? Little by little I am leaving my luggage to help her carry her luggage. Occasionally we visit about whether or not we still need to carry a certain piece of luggage. Sometimes we realize a bag is no longer necessary or we are just too exhausted to drag it along anymore.

Jesus said, “…take nothing for the journey…” he knew we would not need to carry things.

You can get tired of dragging luggage even if it has wheels. Wheels are not too useful when one is walking in the desert sand.

It is so difficult to walk in this desert.

Other friends and family members are in the desert with us. Not much is spoken because they are also struggling with the heat and desolation. We walk together yet we walk alone. The desert hills shift and swirl around us. We are often blinded by the blowing sand, our lips are parched, but we slowly keep walking.

Where is this terminal? Is it just there on the horizon? It seems near yet illusive.

At times I think I see the terminal, but it is just a glimpse. I fear that one day when I am not vigilant I will look up and we will have arrived at “the desert terminal”.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are thirsty…weary…”

 Is this terminal our final destination?  No.

This terminal is where we must  part and go in our separate directions. At this terminal I can only walk with her to the gate and bless her. …walk her to the gate… That vision is painful I must admit…letting her go through the gate. But go she must. She will go on to her final destination, an oasis. The living waters will refresh and revive her.  She will see the true light of the glory of everything we believe about God. She will live in eternal joy.

What happens after her plane leaves this earthly ground? I will still be standing there in the desert. I will be looking for a glimpse of her for a while…a sign of comfort that “all will be well”.

I cannot stay there in the “desert terminal”. It will not be allowed. I must make my way back out of the desert. The Old Testament is filled with desert stories. God does provide his “manna” even in the desert.

I am weary thinking about the trip back across the desert. Will I be able to make the way out of the desert even though I am tired? Will I be able to find the footprints we left in the sand? I cannot bear to let myself think about that today. I am not yet ready. The time will come, but not today.

One thing I know this “desert terminal” only has departing flights, how unusual, a terminal with only departing flights.

We, her family and friends, must make the journey out of the desert no matter how long it may take.

Soul Stirrings: A Steadfast Spirit

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” (Ps. 51:10)
It is hard to have a “steadfast spirit” in the face of temptations.

Jesus was led, some say even driven into the desert. (Matt. 4:1-11) Why? Was it only so he could be tempted? Or was there some other reason? Did this time in the desert somehow prepare him for the rest of his life? He had already been assured by the father at his baptism the he was indeed the ‘beloved’ son. So why was this time of seclusion so vital to his purpose on earth?

Our temptations may or may not occur when we are in the desert of our lives. There are so many implications about being in the desert. In the desert Jesus was isolated from those he had been keeping company with. I think about how much stronger I am in my faith when I am surrounded by those who are of like thinking. But I must ask myself, is that always the best? This may surprise you, but how can I know for sure if I have a ‘steadfast spirit’ if I am never challenged?

Jesus was led away from others into the desolation of the desert where the devil could occupy his thoughts and entertain him with ‘What ifs’. Oh that brings me to my own struggles with ‘What ifs’. You know you can make yourself a little stressed thinking about the ‘What if’s’. Perhaps this conversion of heart called for during Lent could be about allowing yourself to be free of the ‘what if’ temptations. What if…I had more money, a better spouse, a better job, more free time, or more education? I am sure you can fill in your own personal ‘What if’ statements.

In the desert Jesus could think more clearly even though he was probably struggling inside of his humanity with surrendering to the will of his Father. In his humanness Jesus, like us had free will. The temptations in the desert placed Jesus in a position where he had to choose to use his divine powers for himself or resist and do the will of the Father.

I have often wondered, ‘why 40 days’; other than the obvious parallel to Moses leading the people in the desert for 40 years. I think it takes time to make the adjustment when you go away from all that is familiar. It takes time to realize that you only have your own thoughts to confront and or wrestle with. Maybe when you are all alone in the silence of the desert with fewer distractions you are in a better place for a true conversion of heart. No one is there to get you off track. In the silence of the desert God can be heard more clearly. In the silence of the desert more can be drawn out and treasured from deep within.

Thomas Merton says in Life and Holiness, “[The] ‘upsetting of our inner life is essential to spiritual growth, because without it we remain comfortably at rest in more or less illusory ideas of what spiritual perfection really is.” Merton goes on to say “There is no spiritual life without persistent struggle and interior conflict.” In the desert Jesus experienced this interior conflict. He had to experience what it felt life to be fully human. Jesus’ human experiences give him profound credibility for us. Without these human situations we could easily dismiss what he calls us to be by simply saying…BUT Jesus was Divine

I invite you this week to set aside some ‘desert’ time in your home. Commit to the same time each day in the same ‘sacred’ space to spend time with God. Contemplate the ‘What if’s’ in your life and how you can surrender them to the Lord. Ask for the grace of a ‘renewed steadfast spirit’.

If you can actually get some sand bury your hand in it…lift up your hand and let the sand fall between your fingers. Embrace your prayer time through your senses. Feel the texture of the sand, the coolness of it against your skin.