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Friday, February 26, 2016

After the Storm: The Beach as a Metaphor for Life

I love the beach! The sound of the surf seems to me to be the heartbeat of the earth. And when I'm walking the beach, I almost always start thinking about it as a metaphor for life: its quiet times, its upheavals, its blessings and challenges.

What's going on in your life right now? Are you in the calm with the sun shining and clear, starry nights? Is your little boat floating gently on a quiet sea? Or are you in the midst of a storm with buffeting winds and teeming rain? Or is it even worse with a raging tornado bearing down on you as you race for cover? Life can deal with us roughly. Our boats can be tossed on waves that threaten to capsize us any minute. 
And that's when it's important to remember that Jesus is in the boat, even if He seems to be asleep, and that after the storm we often receive the greatest blessings. 

I thought of that yesterday when we were walking on the beach. A fierce thunderstorm the night before left a treasure of shells decorating the sand like jewels. Little Mary-Mary could have collected an abundance of large, brightly-colored cockle shells for her garden, and I quickly filled a bag with an assortment of shells, sponges, and even an intact starfish. But the very fragile shells, especially the sand dollars, were in bits and pieces. I found an intact half of a sand dollar and felt blessed. But what do all those broken bits of shells mean for me?

The winds and waves of life are sure to leave us battered, chipped, and broken - it's our lot because of original sin. But those same waves smooth our sharp edges and make us something different but still beautiful. Did you ever put a "worry stone" in your pocket? I think of those smooth bits of shells as "peace stones." After the battering they change - yes, they are different, but still filled with color and beauty. No longer the same shape, perhaps not even recognizable as the shells they once were, they are something new -- something smaller. The majestic conch becomes more humble perhaps just a small skeleton of what it once was, but maybe even more interesting for revealing what was hidden inside. 

Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, often reminded people that only simple, humble souls go to heaven. The little humble bits of shell remind me of that reality. And if it takes the battering of life to make us humble let's rejoice in it. Because in the end, going to heaven is all that really matters. And if it takes being broken and battered in the winds and waves of life to make us fit for heaven, let us rejoice in the storm. Sometimes that's what it takes to make us humble enough to turn to God.

"In the day of my distress I call upon you, for you will answer me." Psalm 86

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