Thursday, March 08, 2012


Heart Held in Sand

The day was breezy and cool, with sunlight filtered through wispy clouds and low haze. Mild surf ran up onto the beach, stirring bean clam shells and gravel as the tide slowly receded. I was ambling home from the library.

It was a day of smooth stones. There's always something different. Most of the time the pebbles cast up here are angular. I thought these smoothly rounded ones would contrast nicely with the angular ones, so I started collecting the ones with pleasing shapes and interesting colors.

How much of a sign of God's presence is enough? I'm used to working from hints, extrapolating reality from the bare minimum of information. Asking for clarification usually brings too much of the kind of attention I'd rather avoid. When it comes to God, of course he has lots of other things to do, so I shouldn't ask for more than just what's necessary.

What a strange attitude that is. He gave me his Son. He gave me his Spirit. He gently writes his life into my heart every day, and is effusive in his praise when I actually let him do that.

I already had two heart-shaped stones. I can't walk the beach any more without thinking of those gifts. As I walked this day I was looking for pleasing shapes for a friend, and found oval rocks, elongated ovals, disks and others. One little round one caught my eye but I walked on. Then something about the remembered image stopped me, and I turned around to pick it up.

It was a small thick rounded disk of salt-and-pepper sandstone, with a grey inclusion near the middle. The inclusion had caught my attention, just with its contrast against the lighter matrix. I took a closer look, and the inclusion was perfectly heart-shaped.

Oh, this is just too much. Being the kind of person I am, I got to thinking about how this stone was made, and then laid in just the right place for me to find it. First there had to be mountains made, to be worn down and turned into sand black, grey, white. Then some other rock, a bit softer, finer-grained, had to become heart-shaped and immersed in the speckled sand. The whole assembly had to be pressed into sandstone, and then from the depths returned to the light of day. The sandstone stratum had to be broken up in just the right way to reveal the hidden heart, and then it had to slosh around in the surf for a while to get rounded and smoothed. Finally, it had to arrive here so that a wandering and somewhat dazed man fixated on rocks and passing by just happened to find it.

What am I to make of such demonstrations? What can I make of it? I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for the other two hearts, either. I asked for truth, I asked for help, I asked for necessity. I didn't ask for art. I didn't ask for warmth, nor effusive demonstrations of love. I didn't ask for gifts beyond what I needed.

The small stone is purely a gift. God being nice. He didn't have to do it. He knows I'm saved and I know I'm saved. Yet... why do I place such tight limits on his self-expression? God has shown a most wondrous interest in my well-being; perhaps gifts are a part of that. Perhaps learning to receive such gifts is an art in itself. The whole thing threw me off kilter for days. Gifts usually come with price tags, and I just sort of cowered and waited for the bill.

No bill. This one just came with a smile.

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