Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Broken Shells – The Sand Dollar part 2

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. 1 Samuel 1:27-28

Welcome back to Part 2! If you remember from last week, I shared about my run the last day of my spring beach retreat. ( If you didn’t read the last post, please scroll down and read it before continuing here. ) Through the symbolism of the Sand Dollar, God helped me face and admit my deep longing for Peter whole and restored in my presence. As I ran, the voices of my physical loss competed with the voice of God’s eternal defeat of death and thus Peter’s eternal peace. I had to choose which I’d cling to that day and I chose LIFE, the eternal life God provides for those who love him.

All of that transpired before I even reached the half way point. So my run continued and thus so does my story.

By the time I reached the south pier, my knees started to hurt. I turned back and decided to walk the rest of the way back to the condo. Casting Crowns, At Your Feet, was playing on my iTouch. The music sang out

Here at Your feet, I lay my past down
My wanderings, all my mistakes down
And I am free

Here at Your feet, I lay this day down
Not in my strength, but in Yours I’ve found
All I need, You’re all I need

Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet
Oh, to dwell and never leave
Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet
There is nowhere else for me
There is nowhere else for me

Here at Your feet, I lay my future down
All of my dreams, I give to You now
And I find peace, I find peace

It reminded me of a practice presented to us at Women’s Retreat just weeks earlier. We’d experienced the physical release that can come by physically bringing our current struggles to Jesus and laying them at the foot of the cross, surrendering them to His control. At retreat, we’d written our struggles on index cards, brought them up front in a physical act of surrender, and placed them in a basket “at the cross.”

I felt prompted that I should do that now, bringing my longing for Peter’s wholeness to Christ and surrendering it to God’s control. But I don’t have an index card, went through my head. And right behind it, You can use the sand dollar you found this morning. Throw it into the ocean. While definitely meeting the criteria of a physical act of surrender, I instantly argued against it.

It’s my best piece. It’s the best one I found all week. I don’t want to throw it into the ocean. But as I argued, I also realized that again my physical status represented my spiritual state. As I resisted releasing the shell I’d found, I realized spiritually I resisted releasing Peter.

The week of Thanksgiving, when we discovered how ill Peter had become, as a family we set up parameters to get us through the weekend. We needed time to process. But that next morning, after a night of sleep, Peter took the lead, calling the shots on what medicine he wanted and what he did not. He was ready to go home. Not quite sure if we were as ready as he, we supported his decision. We followed his lead. But Peter left. He chose to go home. Although we supported him, I realized I’d never actively released him, giving him back to God. Not in a purposeful way at least. It was time. I knew this would help me move forward through my grief.

So I started looking for a place close enough to the ocean to throw back my half sand dollar. Suddenly, my iTouch jumped to another song, even though in locked status. It totally freaked me out! I got all messed up trying to figure out how to get it back to the Casting Crowns song. As I struggled, the thought went through my head, The enemy really does not want you to do this! Finally I got the song restarted, found a tidepool I could reach and plopped the shell into the water before anything else could go wrong.

Well that was totally undramatic, I thought! Where’s the peace the song promised? I felt so flustered from the music interruption. I felt I’d surrendered the shell more out of fear of the enemy messing with me than a purposeful act of surrender. Determined to do this and do it right, I grabbed the other piece of sand dollar I’d picked up that morning, thought, Sorry Mom, and threw it into the ocean with all my might.

Pitiful! I thought. It really didn’t go very far. But I did all I could. And with that thought the peace came.

As I continued walking home, basking in the joy that comes from obedience, my eyes started scanning the sand again. Maybe I could find another piece of sand dollar to replace that which I gave away. But no, I countered. I don’t want to make an idol out of the shell. What’s important here is the act of surrender, not the symbol God used to get me there. Still, I continued, it would be so nice to have something real, physical to hold in those moments I miss Peter so much and can’t hold him anymore.

But I stopped looking. Soon I noticed the music that now played, Chris Tomlin’s Awakening. The first line of the chorus caught my attention.

For You and You alone
Awake my soul, awake my soul and sing
For the world You love
Your will be done, let Your will be done in me

For you and you alone, I thought. That’s what my life is about. Nothing else. I want it all to be only about you, God. And I can sing. The world needs to know. But what this moment is about is surrender, your will being done in my life.
Then it moved on to the bridge.

Like the rising sun that shines
From the darkness comes a light
I hear Your voice and this is my

As it sang of the rising sun, I thought of all the beautiful sunrises God had blessed us with that week. From the darkness comes a light spoke to my spirit, confirming a message God had given me about his character and his pattern- where he speaks light in our dark places, overcoming the enemy and revealing his perfect love to us in our darkest moments. I certainly had heard His voice all week and all morning. Yes, it was my awakening.

And I glanced down at “awakening” and right by my toe was another piece of sand dollar. I totally wept yet again. For I had not been looking. This wasn’t me hunting something down. This was simply God granting my desire; God trusting me! He trusted my act of surrender and knew my understanding so that he could give me something to hold… not an idol, but a memorial of our moment together, my release of my broken son into wholeness, released into God’s presence to worship him forever.

I moved out onto the sand bar and cried tears of worship. Josh Wilson’s Before the Morning came on next. I’d heard the song so many times the past year or so, yet that day it spoke to me totally new. Phrases jumped out at me confirming words, messages, experiences , lessons from my beach retreat week. I sang. I cried. I worshiped. I was totally humbled that the Creator of the Universe, maker of the amazing scene around me, who also maintained it and held the world together, could at the same time so personally and intimately minister to me, one solitary grieving soul.

I realized, just like Peter, I too was a broken shell. And like the sand dollar, in my brokenness I could find peace, God’s peace. As the beach behind me attested, life caused us to become broken shells. But in our brokenness we could as intimately experience God as we could when flying high from joy. No where could I escape the love of my Creator. No where could I go that God would not go with me. I could face the pain. I could embrace the loss when grief reared its head. I could face it, embrace it, and survive it because God would be there. God would sustain me. God was as present in my grief as he was in my joy.

So now my sand dollar picture hangs on my wall. The piece rests on my desk, my memorial to my son, my God, and that Friday morning run.

Whatever loss you might be facing, bring it to God. Place it at the foot of the cross, surrender it, and let it go. You will find your hands do not remain empty… they will be filled with the peace and love of the Father.

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