Monday, September 13, 2010

Beach Feet

NOTE: The following is an article I wrote when I was a chaplain-in-residence at Georgetown University to students in my dorm. I wrote a regular online column called Feed Your Spirit. (I've updated it here.)\

A few years ago, I was leading a women's retreat in Bethany Beach, Delaware. The church campgrounds where we stayed was literally two blocks from the ocean. We took advantage of the location by planning plenty of breaks in the retreat schedule so we could walk to the beach 2 or 3 times a day.

So I spent a lot of time standing on the shore with my feet planted in the sand, allowing the waves to crash over my feet. It was during a tropical storm that caused some concern but little damage to the area. It was wreaking havoc further south along the Atlantic, but we were just experiencing some residual stormy weather and high winds.

The waves were pretty fierce that weekend. I usually found myself mesmerized as I stood there watching them crest and fall onto the shore. They would crisscross each other, racing to the sloping sand.

Often, I had to replant my feet as the larger waves came and washed over them. I could feel the sand slip out from under me, so I would shift my weight and twist my feet to make sure I didn't fall into the water. It actually took some agility and muscle to make sure I didn't have to trudge back to the cabin soaking wet from head to toe.

Growing up in the Midwest. I didn't have an ocean to visit. I am more accustomed to rivers and streams. I am used to being able to count on the shore to hold me fast without fear of being towed under. The banks of a river are usually more solid, less fragile than an ocean beach on a stormy day.

So my beach experience was a new one, and something that got me thinking about life itself. I thought of many life metaphors staring at the ocean, but the most significant was that life is always shifting and changing...you might need to reestablish your footing, shift your position, change your perspective, in order to meet life head on.

Maybe that sounds 'cheesy,' but you all are in a position of great change and it may seem like the ground beneath you is constantly shifting. Dig your toes in and hang on!

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