Once upon a time in Florida, there was a pale green house with a screened in porch and one slow ceiling fan. It sat, small and unassuming, under giant trees with great lengths of gray curly hair that flowed from their branches. Off to the side was a small storage shack that held black rubber inner tubes with air valves that stuck out a good inch (they could leave a nasty scrape right down your rib-cage if you weren’t careful) and scratchy rafts with popped seams that still floated just fine.
A few yards away was a lake, also small and unassuming, always still, always murky, always smooth but for splashing and paddle boat oars and an occasional fish rippling the surface.
I have pictures of my mom and dad when they were teenagers with cool hair and wild bathing suits standing knee deep in the water, smiling big, the pale green house just out of the frame. I have pictures of my grown-up parents floating, tossing and splashing years later with my brother and me in that same lake, with that same house in the background and on the same rubber inner tubes and scratchy rafts.
They are vivid memories. But the thing I remember most is surprising – it is the sand. I’ve never felt or seen sand like it since, soft and pale and almost impossible to walk through. It moved and shifted as the soles of our feet pressed on it, even when we quickly dug our toes in for stability. When we followed that smushy sand down into the water – it transformed under our feet like something alive and would slowly pull us into it, like quicksand without the “quick.” We stood like stones at the water’s edge and watched as our feet, then our ankles, slowly disappeared into that sand, as if there was no such thing as solid ground.
It was wet and gloppy and we made the most amazing dribble towers on the edge of the shore. It was too something (heavy? slippery?) to make a sand castle. Maybe heavy is a good word – I can still feel the adrenaline that propelled me up off the ground and sent me screaming into the water away from my brother as he shouted “Who wants applesauce!?” and lobbed fistfuls of the sloppy dripping sand straight toward my curly head, where the sand would SLAP and grind down to my scalp and take days to come out.
Why am I thinking about this place now? Why am I remembering that sand with such detail, and finally, why am I writing it down to share with you?
Well, the reasons are layered. The first is that I miss being able to be somewhere else. The second is that lake was beautiful and lovely and I wanted to invite you to visit it with me in my memory, in case you also miss being able to be somewhere else.
But mostly, I wanted to think about that sand with you. The days are growing long, the novelty of being at home has worn off, for us grown-ups, for our teenagers, for our little ones. We started off a few weeks ago standing on new and unstable ground, each step shifting beneath us, changing sometimes by the day, causing us all to feel an unfamiliar instability, measuring our steps to find a walking rhythm.
And the days have melted by like Dali’s clocks, like dribbles of wet sand running down a melting tower.
Some of us are lingering around up on the shore, growing accustomed to the strange new ground that we are walking on. Restless maybe, stepping around burrs of inconvenience and attitudes and boredom, working through the (very real) disappointment of canceled things, but doing pretty well considering. Some of us are closer to the water’s edge, where the sand seems to breath just enough to swallow our feet slowly, almost imperceptibly, until we look down and see that we are buried up to our shins.
If this is where you are, may I ask what is in your sand? Loneliness? A slow build of pressure contained in the walls of your home? The squeeze of online schooling or bickering kids that seems to get tighter each day? A low hum of impatience toward those close to you? The constant chatter of news and information that seems to change by the minute, crowding your mind and stealing your attention span? The knowledge that your first month’s bills were covered, but you aren’t so sure about the second?
Still others of us have felt like we are already underwater, feet wedged into that mysterious sand that gulps and holds fast. What makes up this sand? Have Isolation and a deep loneliness begun to make you feel smothered by their heat? Has your job disappeared like steam off that inner tube? Are you a caregiver who suddenly can’t give care due to restrictions? Has the tension in your home become oppressive or even frightening? Have sopping heavy wallops of circumstances landed on you, blindsiding you, grinding into you and you can’t shake them off?
Oh church family, my words seem hollow today. I wanted to write with shouts of LIFE coming off Easter Sunday, and indeed Life is ALL around us, even now. But I know for many of us, our hearts are growing tired. I want to remind you that you have a family, brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers in Christ. Like Paul who so desperately wanted to join his “spiritual children” in Thessolanica but was “torn apart from them,” so we desperately want to be knit together through our bond of Christ’s family.
So, for today, let’s pray to the One who is able to lift us from the miry bog, the Lifter of lonely heads, the One who sees us and finds us in the sand. Let’s pray that He who is able would rescue and revive and restore and refresh his children.
Love, grace and peace from your sister in Christ,