Friday, February 17, 2012


A Pocketful of Heart

Monday, I intended to walk to the library but got rained out. I wrote instead, putting into words some ideas that had been very persistently wandering around my mind. I'd resisted writing "Jesus and His Amazing Anti-cynicism Ray!" because it seemed too far out, but it was just too persistent. That often means God is involved.

Tuesday, Valentine's Day, came up clear so I made my trip to the library. I did my business there and returned on the beach. The tide was low, the sun bright, breeze cool. The Santa Monica Mountains shone blue-green beyond the bay, and Santa Catalina Island marked the western horizon.

I've always liked rocks. We'd spend the summer in Colorado, and I did a lot of walking around amidst the startling variety of rocks in the Rocky Mountains. On the beach most of the rocks have been ground and pounded into sand; being a sand sculptor, that's fine with me. Sometimes, though, there are small rocks and pebbles cast up on the sand. I tend to look for flat ones. It's hard to skip a rock on the ocean, but if I time it just right, there's a smooth surface after a wave does its final break and I can skip rocks on that. Still, the process is subject to sudden changes, so even the best of rocks may not go very far.

In all of my trips along the beach I've never found the proverbial heart-shaped rock. Until Valentine's Day. I laughed. God being humorous, excessive, and to the point; the particular heart-shaped rock I found was fragile, so I had to carry it in my hand.

It was delightful. I have a very long habit of trying to take just enough, and my assumption about God's actions has always been that he'd patch me up just enough to get me back on the road, and then send me off. I'm also sensitive, so a hint is usually enough. Sometimes, more than enough, and I take off too soon. I simply don't expect, nor demand, effusive expressions. I had to laugh as God gently chided my austerity.

Wednesday I started getting angry. Thursday I was thoroughly angry. How dare God try to bribe me again! Buying me off with a stone heart for having written a story that no one read! His response to that was "I don't care about numbers." I still resented the bribe, the assumption that I could be tossed a cookie because I'd been a good boy. God had every right to be angry himself, as I knew that none of my accusations was true. God was still in my heart, still patiently radiating the anti-cynicism field, still holding completely true to the path he set before the world was made. He simply held up a half-silvered mirror that reached into the past, and showed me all the other bad gifts I've gotten, gifts that were no more gifts than a campaign contribution is. Quid pro quo, all the way. God isn't like that.

God wants my active participation in life. Not a passive resignation, sort of a "his hand in my glove" kind of thing, but living with him, working with him. What I thought was a temporary deal, well, I think it's a lifetime. God has set his seal upon my heart, and he's staying.

So, today I again walked uptown, and then came home along the beach. I was in a much better mood than yesterday, although still tired. All this arguing makes it hard to get any sleep. Still, moving is better than not moving, even if it's slow.

As I approached the ocean, I wondered if I'd see another heart-shaped rock. Nah, that would be completely excessive. The point has been made and I get it. I came across the beach and turned south on another radiant day. Naturally I kept an eye out for pebbles, and... yes, I tell you the truth, there was another heart-shaped rock, right there in my path. This one had no fragile acoutrements, so after I'd looked at it and laughed, I put it into a pocket and kept walking.

Now, the main reason I've become more attuned to stones and shells is that I have a friend who's a painter. She likes to paint still lifes, and I thought pebbles might make a nice background for them, so for the last few months I've been collecting them for her. Shortly after I found the heart-shaped pebble, I came upon the most beautiful shell I've ever seen along here, just lying there, its lovely nacre glinting in the bright sunlight.

God has already given me life through Jesus, and his Spirit. I still don't expect generosity. I wonder how big the pile of heart-shaped rocks will get. And how big my friend's pile of pretty things from the beach will get.

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