Walking on the beach, it is chilly and gusty but the sun is pleasant and warms us as we stroll along. The children are animated, invigorated by the cold and brave enough to splash along the ocean’s edge. They look for shells and chase birds as I hold the little one’s hand. The waves frighten him just enough to stay close. The beach is vast and desolate, we have it almost to ourselves.
My feet sink in the damp white sand as I reflect on the happenings of this single day, reviewing them one by one.
Today I ran my first half-marathon.
Today my grandmother, estranged to me, was buried.
Today my children found four starfish.
Today I found out that a relative is terminally ill.
I marvel that these sentences can be strung together in a single script, the easy statements next to the heartbreaking ones. What is the sum of each day, the sum of a life? How can wonder and accomplishment and death and illness all hover side by side until they crash into one, a heavy white wave that hits hard and knocks the wind from me, leaving me staggering and stunned and in need of saving?
I walk under an unending blue sky and feel so small and humbled by how meager my ability is to understand life.
I can only think that all of these things, the blessings and the sufferings, I must take to the cross, deliberately, carefully, unquestionably. For at the cross, the Lord faithfully performs the miracle of transformation, taking every single heartbreak and weakness that I bring and returning it to me as a gift. At that place, where the blood and pain of God’s very son was transformed into the ultimate gift - neverending grace for the world - I find hope.
“In His death Jesus Christ gave us life. The willingness of the Son of God to commit Himself into the hands of criminals became the greatest gift ever given - the Bread of the world, in mercy broken. Thus the worst thing that ever happened became the best thing that ever happened. It can happen with us. At the Cross of Jesus our crosses are changed into gifts.” (Elisabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness)
I look down at the little one, still grasping my hand. He sees his father very far off down the sandy beach, so far ahead that we seem forgotten. I walk with confidence because I know where I am going but he feels lost and scared and cries out in a panic: “Daddy, Daddy, wait for me, wait for me, it’s Reidy!”
He calls the name of the father.
“It’s okay,” I lean over to say. “You don’t need to worry. I’m right here holding your hand. I’ll walk with you all the way home and never let go.”
My reply hovers in the sun-soaked air, is caught up by the wind and swept towards the heavens.