I run along the beach everyday. When I was staying with my parents, I began to run on their treadmill, and whenever I would try to run on asphalt, along neighborhood streets, my knees would scream in protest. But here? Here my knees are silent, and the only sounds that fill the space of my morning runs are the crashing waves and the passing traffic and the labored sounds of my own breathing. And of course, the occasional exclamation from Gareth as he enjoys the jog from the comfort of his stroller: "MOMMY! IT'S THE BEACH!"
Indeed, my precous one, it is.
I am hesitant to wax eloquently about the beach to you all. I am firmly convinced that every day along this island, maudlin and sacchrine poetry is being written about waves and tides and sand and sunsets and I do not want to add to the growing mass of dramatic prose. But there is so much power, my friends, so much clarity here. I understand the need to put pen to paper and record even a hint of the emotions that overpower you when you stand facing an endless expanse of water.
In my first days on the island, I was standing in the rolling tides with Gareth when I realized that I was being overcome with something strange yet so familiar: peace. Oh dear ones, you cannot know (or perhaps you may) how hard it was to stand under the crashing realization that I was no longer hemmed in by pain. My son stood next to me with his shorts growing ever more soaked, chattering delightedly about the water and the sun and the sand and I was frozen with relief. The crashing waves came again and again and in my minds eye all I could see was freedom. Freedom from the landmarks of pain that Waco held for me. Freedom from the frustration of the call process. Freedom from the people I truly loved but who were unable to separate me from the suffering I'd gone through.
Standing there in the ocean brine, holding my son's hand tightly so that in his prancing excitement he would not be washed away, I finally made a choice that I had been avoiding for so long. The freedom of this place had to be total, my new life had to be truly new. The waves can only wash away that which you give to them with open hands, and I closed my eyes and opened the tightly fisted hands of my soul and let the words rise out of me....
I need a divorce.
The words of the prophets still ring in me, the words of God about covenant and faithfulness and redemption and radical grace. But a new refrain begain circling in me, a reminder that God had spoken through Jeremiah and told his people that he was making a "new covenant", not healing an old one. That threaded through me, the whispering voice that asked me "are you trying to raise the dead? are you trying to piece together that which has become dust? Are you insisting on holding onto the old when God can make you something new?" And I admitted to myself, that no matter how much I tried, and fought, I would never be able to let Cliff into the vulnerable places of my life. Into my private moments, the quiet conversations held in darkness, the privilege of my body in intimate closeness, the times of brokenness and self-revelation. I admitted that too much had been betrayed, that sin really and truly does change the landscapes of our lives and our souls. That the gate I had been straining to keep open had truly been shut.
It has been a long journey to make this choice. I have had therapy, spiritual direction, endless converstations, nights spent in agony and hope, days heavy with introspection and God's Spirit has hovered over it all. I won't claim that this choice is God's Will; I still believe that God hates divorce because I hate it too. I hate the sin and pain and suffering that led to this place in my life. I hate that a covenant was shattered and that lives that should have been growing together have instead shredded apart. I will claim, however, that God is dreaming a new life for me, for Gareth, even for Cliff. That there is grace enough even for me.
I am peaceful here. Peaceful because God has led me to this church to serve and I am in the midst of that task. Peaceful because it is new and unknown and the horizon of possibilities stretch out before me, uncluttered by past pain. Peaceful because I have committed to this new life in its totality, accepting the death of what was and opening myself to the birth of what will be. There are still days ahead that will be fraught with anxiety and anger, misunderstanding, desparation and loss. But I am strong enough to stand in the midst of it all, wise enough to know that life is much like these waves I see everyday. Life keeps coming, strong or gentle, violent or peaceful. Life keeps coming and I can surely hold still if God is with me, holding my hand tightly so that I do not wash away.