Shuffling in the Sand

Sand dunes in Death Valley, backed by mountains and a hazy blue sky.By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed […] he went out, not knowing where he was going.

— Hebrews 11:8, New American Standard Bible

I sometimes wonder about people like Noah and Abram/Abraham. They hear God’s call and obey, not knowing when God will fulfill his promises of destruction and deliverance. Noah spends multiple decades building an ark; Abraham wanders in the wilderness.

I read about their faith and think about their doubt. Surely they experience it at some point? Friends and strangers ridicule Noah’s pronouncement of a coming flood. Abraham spends years living in a place where horizon and sky blend together, and the heat casts up wavering illusions.

Somehow, Noah and Abraham continue to obey the call God places on their lives despite the taunts and journey into the unknown. They, however, don’t have God’s words or God’s spirit to sustain them. All they receive — occasionally — are divine messengers.

I, by contrast, do possess God’s words and Spirit, and yet how I struggle. Worry arises about how to pay for medical bills and what I’m to do next. I turn and turn and turn. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be, but I feel like I’m shuffling in the sand. One day bleeds into the next. The days all look the same, one depressing sand dune after another.

Such days bring me to the end of myself. Perhaps that’s the point. When all I see is sand and disappearing footprints around and behind me, I can only continue walking. I don’t know where I’m going, but I can’t stop moving: Lying down in the desert is not an option. Here, lack of water kills, and heatstroke destroys.

The knowledge informs my days, even when they are entirely bleak. A light, no matter how small, illuminates them. It reminds me I’m not alone, not even when

I struggle to get through the day without breaking into tears.

Panic lodges like a stone in my stomach and makes it hard to breathe.

Despair tempts me to curl up on the couch or to stop eating.

Depression settles, a fog-fugue distorting sound and sight.

I’m angry and scared and confused and lost.

Even in those moments of desolation, grace and truth remain. Beauty exists. The Spirit comes, a gift far better than angels or a protecting pillar of cloud and fire. He speaks the words of God and tells me not to lose heart. He reminds me I am loved, and I am his, no matter if I shuffle in the sand or stand on a mountaintop.

Image: Scott Taylor (Creative Commons)