May 18, 2016 | by: Sharon Bruce | 4 Comments
Posted in: Identity
I asked my friend, Sharon Bruce, to write a guest post. I've known Sharon since the early days of Restoration Church when we served food together at Palmetto House. Besides being an amazing cook, Sharon is one of those rare souls that you can just relax and be yourself around. She has an eye for noticing the Creator's hand in the small, lovely details of life -- whether it's in an odd-shaped cloud formation, the spiral of a seashell or the sparkle of an insect's wings hovering over a flower. I'm so excited for her to launch her own blog with RCPO in June. - Angela Karum
Nature has long been a refuge for me. When the world (or the noise in my head) gets too loud, I find a place outside to listen and rest. As a teenager in El Paso, it was a hillside vacant lot with an unobstructed view of the desert sunset. As a college student it was a retreat center in the mountains of southern New Mexico. Now that I live in Florida, that refuge is often the beach.
A couple of years ago I sought God’s healing in some areas of my life that had long plagued me. What I thought would be a series of uncomfortable emotional procedures morphed into the emotional equivalent of having my chest cracked open for emergency heart surgery. I hurt. I was afraid. I was ashamed. I was gutted. Many evenings after work, I found myself at the beach walking up and down the shore, overwhelmed and heavy inside. I knew that God indeed was bringing about healing, but the prospect of loss loomed in front of me.
On one of those evenings I sat in the sand watching the waves, listening to music, when out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a thing―a big gray thing―sailing by me, narrowly missing my head. I felt the draft on my face as it careened past.
It was a pelican.
God threw a pelican at me.
It landed several feet away in a flock of unfazed seagulls. We stared at each other in mutual surprise―me asking myself, “Was I really almost taken out by a pelican?” and it, perhaps embarrassed at such a disastrous final approach, trying unsuccessfully to camouflage itself among birds half its size.
The scene was the very definition of comic relief. It was exactly what I needed, and God knew it. I believe to this day he used that bird to say to me, “Laugh a little. You’re going to be okay.”
After the prophet Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, Queen Jezebel in her rage vowed to take his life. Elijah fled into the wilderness: “He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.” (1 Kings 19:4-5)
What happened next is, to me, one of the most beautiful scenes in Scripture. God, in an act of love and compassion, brought Elijah relief: “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank.” (1 Kings 19:5-8)
“…the journey is too much for you.” Yes, it is. It was too much for me as I sat on the beach. I had nothing left. God, in his compassion for me, showed me that he knew, he understood, and then he made me laugh, because he understood it was the medicine I needed. Laughter in this context is hope really, and I was starving for hope that I would be okay.
As is often the case, God knows the remedy for our needs much better than we do. A friend likely couldn’t have brought laughter from me in those moments and, privy to all that was going on inside me, probably would not have attempted to do so. God does things differently―perhaps inappropriately―by our standards. It’s like the cemetery scene in Steel Magnolias when Clairee grabs Ouiser and offers her up to a grieving M’Lynn shouting, “Go ahead M’Lynn, slap her! Hit her! We’ll sell t-shirts that say ‘I slapped Oiuser Boudreaux!’” By the standards of propriety, it was completely inappropriate, and yet utterly necessary. In my case, God threw a pelican at me instead of an angry Shirley MacLaine.
My experience at the beach wasn’t a cure; it was a dose of pain relief at the beginning of a hard healing. The next months had their share of loss. It was lonely. I was sad for a long time. But I wasn’t hopeless. And I could laugh.
God doesn’t surround us with his creation for us to brush it aside while we get on with the “important” things in life. He uses it as a physical medium to communicate who he is and to care for us. Be still long enough to watch and listen. He can and does use the work of his hands to heal.
“Happiness hit her
Like a bullet in the back
Struck from a great height
By someone who should
Know better than that.”
-Florence Welch, “The Dog Days are Over”
Angela Karum, mother of two teenagers and Florida resident since 2008, fills her free time hunting treasures in used book stores and sipping Nutella lattes with friends. Her compassionate heart and ready smile belie an adventurous spirit cultivated during her childhood in the Amazon jungle.