Last spring we packed our things and headed for Charleston. The historic district is one of our favorite places to hang out, although I’m not sure hanging out would describe our activities there. Normally, I spend days wandering around with my camera equipment, shooting black ironwork, cobblestone road patterns, and a hundred other fascinating details tucked away in this antebellum city.
But this time around we had a different plan in mind. A little over an hour south of Charleston is a unique beach called the “Boneyard,” and that was our destination. We left before the sun came up because timing was everything—we had to arrive at high tide. You see, the Boneyard isn’t your typical beach with white sand and ocean. Actually, this beach houses mocha sand, a roaring ocean, and bone-like trees standing frozen in the tide pools. It’s an amazing site and even more amazing to photograph.
In order to shoot the pictures, I had to stand with my tripod right at the edge of the water. Of course, the waves would roll in and almost knock me over as I waited for the exposure to finish (you have to set your camera for a long exposure while using a neutral density filter). The whole thing proved an awesome experience that I hope to repeat someday.
Today, I sat thinking about those thundering waves rolling in and threatening my balance. What a perfect parable for life. On Saturday, I sat listening to a friend share her heartbreak over something her teenage son had done. Then on Sunday, another friend told me she was suffering from a serious medical condition that would require surgery. A few hours later I received the news that Nabeel Qureshi had lost his battle with stomach cancer.
Sometimes the waves wash over us, one after another, and our feet feel as if the sandy bottom is giving way beneath our feet. I suspect you know the experience I’m describing. My thoughts drifted to Job—“Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
Job asks a very important question as his suffering progresses. “If a man dies, shall he live again?” Since our first parents took up residence east of Eden, their progency have held to a continuing hope in some kind of afterlife, a hope we might describe as stubborn, refusing to be extinguished.
For the Christian, God has spoken in His Son, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Nabeel knows this with absolute certainty today as he gazes on the beauty of His Savior. But we also share in that certainty because God’s word is more certain than life itself.
As I prayed for my two friends this morning, I realized that we’re all in the same place even though our circumstances differ. In the midst of the pain, we’re right where God wants us to be, in a place that requires utter dependence upon Him. It’s rarely comfortable, but it’s a good space to inhabit because when we come out on the other side, we’ll probably look a little more like Jesus.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear though the
earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved
into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.