Once when I was a little girl on vacation by the ocean, my grandmother handed me a pretty shell to keep. As we walked along the beach, I dropped it in the surf and a wave quickly washed it away. There was no finding it again. I don’t remember what the shell looked like, its shape or its color, only the sense of loss in my small heart.
My grandmother doesn’t know who I am anymore. When we visit in the nursing home, she tells me what a nice young lady I am with no recognition on her face and asks if I think her long fingernails are real.
This is the world we wake to—a transient kaleidoscope, ever shifting. From the flowers that bloom and then die to the melting snow and our own memories slipping away, nothing is permanent.
I spent the summer in Virginia standing on mountains.
I came for an internship, and when I applied for it, I had some hope of it jumpstarting my career as a world-savvy international journalist writing stories that matter. Instead I wrote a bunch of brochures and read a lot of heartbreaking articles (by actual world-savvy international journalists).
At some point in early summer, I started wondering what exactly I was doing in Virginia. The series of events that led to my taking this internship in a city and an organization I’d never heard of seemed somewhat unlikely, so I figured it was a God thing. But I spent my days writing brochures and scheduling Tweets. It wasn’t exactly my dream job, and I hadn’t really made any friends in Virginia. My presence there didn’t seem to be doing anyone much good.
I am sitting in a coffee shop with an iced mocha and a pile of books, because this is how I know to not be lonely, filling myself with chocolate coffee and words, forgetting the people I love are a thousand and more miles away. Not forgetting maybe so much as accepting, as hoping that we are all where we are meant to be.
Words are the stuff that dreams are made of for me, the beauty of a world that exists only in mind. Language is odd if you think too hard about it. What are words to the natural world? What are hope and beauty to rays and particles of light, gusts of wind, green things growing? We are trying to name the things we see and the things we don’t see but know are there somewhere. Sunlight means more to us than brightness from a burning sphere of hydrogen; sunlight means warmth and unfurling petals, looking ever up.
I think of the things that move me in two categories: nature and humanity, but we also are creation. The synapses that light up the human mind into both poetry and calculus are as breathtaking as the most brazen colors of sunset.
Sometimes I find the Bible incredibly unsatisfying. I am reading the parts of the Israelite history I don’t know very well, and to be honest, they’re parts of the Bible I usually try to avoid. The God of the Old Testament seems so often fierce and unforgiving. Last week I read Joshua and cried for Achan’s and his household, the women and children all stoned to death for this one man’s sin. And so many people of Canaan similarly struck down with swords. No prisoners allowed– total destruction in the name of the Lord.
Theologians offer explanations for this violence. The people destroyed by Israel were corrupt, they say. We all deserve the same death, they say. If we’ve forgotten that, we’ve forgotten the gospel.
I can’t argue with them, but I’m still uneasy. It doesn’t seem like God gives everyone the same chance. How can people be held responsible for the cultures they are born in, for the things they are raised to believe?