Over the past years, I have worked diligently to contain and control my pain. I’ve tried everything – therapy, prayer, mindfulness, exercise, and changing my diet. I’ve read numerous books, articles, blogs, and websites. I’ve tried not to talk about my deep sorrow, and I have talked about my sadness until I am tired of hearing my voice. I have listened to podcasts and asked for advice from others that have suffered. Yet, despite these efforts, I am not “better.” I do not feel healed. The scars and debris of my past still litter the landscape of my heart.
There are days when anger simmers beneath the surface, threatening to boil over. Some mornings, the ache in my heart is so deep and painful that I can barely drag myself out of bed. There are nights when all I want to do is run away from everyone and fall into a deep sleep where my thoughts cannot find me. There are other nights when I toss and turn, wondering if daylight will ever come. The weariness and heaviness are ugly scars on my soul that I want to hide.
A few weeks ago, my family visited Driftwood Beach. When we decided to vacation there, I had no idea what to expect. When my family first stepped onto the beach, our excited chatter ceased and we stood in silent awe. Sun-bleached trees tiredly stood in the sand reaching furtively for the sky. Twisting limbs and fallen trees were scattered haphazardly across the sand, moving ever so slightly as the dark blue waves slowly receded. As the tide rolled back, white stumps slowly rose from the ocean like ghosts of a time past. It was like stepping into another world or another time. Or maybe we were caught in between time, trapped in a moment that would end too soon.
The beach was eerie – a scene clouded with chaos and death. Huge trees that had once stood proudly were shadows of their former selves. The vibrant greens and browns were leeched away, leaving wood that was white and bleached by the salty waves and sun. Yet, I did not feel overcome by the chaos and the death. When I looked closer at the trees, I discovered that they were teeming with life. Tiny snails and anemones covered the trunks and branches. Small fish found refuge in the shady tidal pools at the base of the trees.
The beach evoked every emotion at once – awe, sadness, wonder, loss, and hope. Death and life entwined together in a delicate dance in this holy place. It was one of the most hauntingly beautiful places that I have ever been.
A few days later, we met a local man at a pond. He had lived in the area his entire life. When we mentioned Driftwood Beach to him, he said, “We aren’t like Florida. Florida spends all of their money working on their beaches – removing dead trees and bringing in sand. We don’t do that in Georgia. We simply let God do what he is going to do, and we let nature take its course.”
I know the beaches that he described. Beaches that are almost too perfect. Beaches that are full of life, with all traces of death and destruction removed. Beaches that are carefully manicured to make the visitor feel a certain way. Driftwood Beach could not have been more opposite. Driftwood Beach wore the scars of erosion, unpredictable tides, and storms. Driftwood Beach did not remove the fallen trees, but instead, nature slowly did what nature does.
And it was beautiful.
In many ways, my soul is like a beach. Storms of sadness, anger, and pain have eroded away some of my innocence and hope. For years, I have tried to carefully manicure my soul – I have tried to remove any evidence of the destruction and darkness that touched my life. I have worked hard to make my heart and soul look “better” by removing any trace of death and chaos. I have attempted to force myself to act and behave the way I think I should.
Maybe I am the problem. Instead of trying to remove the dead, sun-bleached limbs, I can leave them as a testament to my pain. In Exodus 14:14, Moses said, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
The pain and the chaos will be remembered, impressed upon my soul like the driftwood on the sand. And it will be beautiful.