A week ago I sunk my toes into the sugar-white sands in Destin, and tried hard to release the junk I’d carried with me to the sea. I wanted a transfiguration moment. I wanted a soul-shattering revelation that would send me home altered forever. I went there bone-dry, weary and in need of healing. But no such earthquaking occurred. There was no moment where I felt much different than before.
I came home with my same hurts, my same struggles, and burdens. In my frustration to figure out why I am having a hard time getting past some things, I realized that if I recount the year, there has been a lot to process.
A community wounding, relationship struggles, the move of our beloved pastor away from our church, ups-and-downs of writing work, friends close by struggling with hard things, and this week, the loss of my last living grandparent. It wasn’t until I began listing all the things that my own sense of lingering grief began to make absolute sense. I’m prone to fits of handling-all-things-on-my-own-itis, and because of my continuing struggle with fierce independence, I’m slow to accept when life becomes too much. Surrender still does not come easy.
Time at the beach didn’t cure me the way I wanted it to and Lazarus wasn’t healed when Mary and Martha wanted him to be.
God nearly-never shows up the way we demand.
God’s ways. Who can understand them?
Instead of shocking displays of the Holy at the beach, I watched my children experience something they never had. I bore witness to their battles against fear, I watched them face the unknown with bravery and joy. I sat with my parents and talked about dreams and work and seasons of life. At the beach, my husband and I squeezed into a smaller-than-usual bed and held hands and sighed together in the middle of the night when neither of us could sleep.
At the beach, we enjoyed being a family. Just us, no interruptions. There were no burning-bush moments in the sand. Rather than sweeping acts of Divine Intervention, I sank into the hushed revelation of usual life. I remembered where we came from, how far we’ve come, and where we are in this moment.
I sorted through what matters some, and what matters most.
I came home and unpacked my bags with my heart still weighted. I sorted my junk, some more. The knots are looser. The shadow of that disappointment couldn’t stand long in light of the truth—I had experienced God’s presence countless times on our journey. Not in any parting of seas, but in the quieter ways of grace upon grace.
Twenty-one years ago that same became an ebeneezer for me, when my husband proposed to me there, and returning, all these years later, is a testimony of it’s own. We were barely 18 when we promised forever to each other on those sands, and there, our children played on the same shore that witnessed our promises to each other that would lead eventually, to their lives. We never imagined this gift. Simply being able to return was grace. Underserved. Unexpected.
God’s faithfulness so rarely meets my expectations. Every time I build a frame and expect Him to fill it, I am disappointed, not because of God, but because of my own tiny constraints. Every time I fail to let God be God, when I forget that it’s God who builds and fills as He knows best, I miss the gift of the moment. It is a gift that God does not operate according to my own itenerary.
God’s faithfulness cannot be measured only in miraculous moments of transformation. Most of the time, His goodness is more deeply experienced in the “withness” we experience in our struggles. At the beach, I remembered that He is with me.
What I did find at the shore, was the permanence of God’s presence. What I brought home, along with the remains of my baggage, is the reminder of God’s faithfulness in all seasons, and in all places.
Sometimes, the deepest healing comes slow and steady, like a rolling tide. Sometimes, we have to wait for it.