“Will we ever run out of rock?” I asked my friend. It was a completely blonde question. But it came when very few brain cells were willing to cooperate. My dad was in the hospital, critically ill. I walked our stretch of beach with an understanding friend. “No,” my smart friend said. “The pressure of the earth continually forms new rock deep below the surface.” “Oh, right.” I responded, trying to shake off the valley girl persona.
It’s been over a year since I lost my dad. And there is a huge hollowed out crater in my life. Sometimes that crater is brimming with his love and encouragement and memories so real it seems he is still here. But at other times it’s filled with invisible boulders that I must move from one side of the crater to the other, dragging them behind me, until it’s time to move them to the other side again. It uses up energy. There is a little less of me present in the world.
But life does go on. And the demands of the past year have stretched me beyond my ability. I cry out silently to our Heavenly Father, as we all do, to meet our God-sized needs. He has. He does. He provides lavishly. But that crater still echoes, begging to be filled. Nothing seems to be quite enough. I wonder if anything will ever be enough. It is the way of grief.
I brought Max out to that same stretch of beach to let the sea breeze soothe every troubled thought in my head. Max is 22 now, and remarkable. Autism has become a way of life for us. Max jumped out of the car and made a run for it, passing through the tall blowing grasses, kicking a spray of sand behind each hurried step. I let him go, trusting.
I found Max under the bridge, just as expected, arms wide to the sky and bouncing on his toes. Our town boasts the longest wooden bridge in the country, or maybe that’s local folklore. A car was driving on the bridge directly over Max’s head and the rushing sound captivated him. He was leaping into the air, his feet landing and crunching against the thick layer of barnacle-covered rocks that edge the bay. Such joy does a soul good.
A large stone caught Max’s eye and he darted towards it. With both hands he lifted it and hurled it into the bay, snails and all. It landed with a gratifying “Plunk,” and both of us spilled over with laughter. Max reached for more rocks, throwing them one by one into the sea. This is not a game we play with others, unless of course they choose to wear armor to the beach.
Finally, Max found a perfect perch and sat down on a broken piling. Hundreds of rocks now surrounded him, just at his fingertips. I stood some 25 feet away, the recommended distance to avoid a concussion, knowing Max could sit for days and never run out of rocks to throw. I watched him for a while as he delighted in the simplicity of throwing and splashing, of smooth stones being swallowed by a dark gray sea.
Of moving rocks from one place to another.
And a wave crashed within me. Here, even in the hard work and ache of grief, there exists God’s beauty. His touch reaches the soul when we love fully, when we grieve deeply, when we are empty before Him. Standing on the edge of the sea I tipped my head back to drink in His grace. God provides. His unshakable presence is manna from heaven falling and splashing into our hearts left broken wide open.
“Mom!” I heard my son yell. Max had paused from rock-hurling practice and was pointing to the distant shore. “Can you get me some more rocks?” Through squinting eyes I followed his finger to the miles of pebble-strewn shoreline, more of the very same rocks abundantly surrounding him now. I looked back at Max, the wind whipping my blonde hair into a swirl around my face, and I smiled.
“Max,” I called back to him. “You will have enough.”
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