Sand & Ashes

February 16, 2018
(written date)

Yesterday a friend of mine shared a picture and comment about her entering into the season of Lent this year. She commented on a picture that she took of sand which had swirls of tidal movement and a darker vein of silt intermingled with the yellow. Here is what she wrote: “…I’m realizing Lent, the 40-day season before Easter, we get to ask “What is God calling me to be healed from so that I can join the work of restoration for all?” Picture: sand, not ashes, but low tide unveiled a beautiful design to stand on.”

I love the question that she asks and so often I have thought about the things that God wants to heal us from and have forgotten the markers that inspired my insides to come alive and even start the journey of healing. I didn’t realize that I had been asleep and at times I didn’t realize that I had been on the run, and well, the picture of “sand and not ashes” that my friend posted reminded me to a time in my life when I discovered something beneath the sand in my own story that in fact now be holy ashes.

The Resurrection Plant (See the short video at the bottom of this blog)

I was living in a new place, new city, new home and in a new church community. One week at this new church the sermon included the video featured on this blog post, The Resurrection Plant. Just a couple of sentences into this video Sir David Attenborough (a British legend when it comes to exploring the natural world) says: “Rising from the sand, a dried out ball of twigs”. As I heard these words, in this moment the insides of my body started to experience a thirst and revelation that I was somehow that dried ball of twigs.

For a hundred years this ball of twigs could have been spun around the dry desert of the Sahara and could have travelled hundreds of miles. As a result of this sermon and video I started to ask what it was that had been buried under the sands of time in my own life and I wondered deeply what it might feel like for the rains to hit me and for seeds of my being to get knocked off, into the ground to create future life.

The video took me to the story of Moses when he steps outside (as a member of Pharaohs household) and sees an Egyptian striking a Hebrew slave. He in turn strikes the Egyptian, kills him and buries him under the sand. The following day he steps out again and sees a Hebrew striking a Hebrew. As he witnesses this a Hebrew slave turns to him and asks him “who made him judge over us?” and, “wondering whether he was going to strike them like he struck the Egyptian?” As a result Moses flees.

There is much that can be said about this interaction and the inner story of Moses that plays out. We know that Moses was born a Hebrew (one who crosses over/ One who leaves slavery) and brought up an Egyptian (One enslaved and trapped in a narrow place). It’s that split identity all mixed in with his future calling that begins with him killing the part in himself that feels like a foreigner to him, and honestly I don’t think he really had a cognitive understanding of what that meant. Moses flees to a place called Midian, which means “from Judgement”. He flees with both the Egyptian and Hebrew inside of him and as we read in Exodus 2, he gets on with life.

Sands of Time, Holy Ashes

In that moment in the church four and a half years ago something awoke in me as I watched the resurrection plant and started to see that when I first came to the USA I buried part of who I was under the sand because I judged what scared me and relied on self preservation as a justifiable way to keep on fleeing. Here I was, in a place I had never been, figuratively and metaphorically and little did I know the process that Father God would take me on to experience the rain finally starting to hit the dry seeds off my arid insides.

As I wrote in reply to my friends picture and comments, “There is something about the internal struggle and external reactions because of a truth that is hidden to us at times. The sand preserves the very thing we wanted to try and kill off, but it was us all along….” Many years ago I buried a part of who I was, the free worshipper of God who loved to sing and express and create. I mean, it’s not that these parts of me disappeared, in fact, at times it was quite the opposite, the problem I was encountering though was that everything that I was creating and trying so desperately to dream about in my own life was being done “from judgement”, the Midian of my story.

So, as I enter this Lent season, writing more, exploring more and most importantly, not doing it alone, I am drawn to the ashes and the sand. That now is the time to remember the resurrection plant that is full of seeds and has travelled many miles being watered in time and space by the grace of God. That now is the time for the entry points and markers to our memories and stories of the past to be burnt to a holy kind of ash and placed on our heads as a new marker in time that even the memory can be healed, the memory that holds pain can be healed so that as my friend said, “we can join the work for the restoration of all”.

Lent literally means Spring and I sense it in the air. I live in Minnesota right now though and the cold and snow laid streets will be with us for a while longer. Although I am not a fan of the cold I am a fan of the work of transformation. My sense is that the deep cold and winter of Minnesota will give me, in community, the chance to experience the kind of spring in my whole being that I have always dreamed of.

Ashes? Sand? Spring? Transformation? What markers in the sands of time come to mind today? Enjoy doing the work friends. I know it will be worth it!

Sally Cranham