Last week I went on vacation with three generations of my family. It was the first time we had all gathered together for a vacation and the first time for my children to experience the ocean.
As has been the case so often in the last few years, this trip was another loop in the spiral path of revisiting people and places of my youth. Kind of a touchstone experience, to go back to those places that have been experienced as holy, sacred places in my growing up years. I hadn’t been back to the island and the retreat center since I was senior in high school over 20 years ago.
Something about going to the beach, and especially this beach, brings me so close to God and God so close to me that I seem to know exactly what to do. This trip was, for me, both a pilgrimage and a long overdue breath of fresh air. I love the beach and living as I now do in the heart of the heartland (Midwest), I live far from my beloved beaches. The fact that I connect so deeply with the ocean is yet another confirmation that cellular memory does exist. My parents grew up at the oceanside, and though I did not, I feel very much at home there, drawn to it and comforted by it.
Going back to Epworth-by-the-sea is a journey back to one of those places I feel most safe. I have always felt safe and sheltered there (even in spite of awkward teen boy/girl interactions and the silly things that middle and high school girls hold important). I was a toddler the first time my parents took me and my brothers to Epworth. For many years we stayed in the efficiency apartments there because it was the most affordable option for a family with four kids under the age of 11.
My mom and dad set out to rent a house for our vacation, but when I suggested Epworth it won the votes of nostalgia as well as cost (and, let’s face it, sometimes one house is just a little bit too small for three generations!). Finding a wheelchair accessible vacation rental is a real challenge, and we’ve found that retreat/conference centers or commercial properties fit the needs more effectively than private homes and rental properties.
My brothers came, and though they didn’t get to stay the full week, it was so amazing to have them there and to see them playing with my boys in the surf and around the area sightseeing. We basked in the sun and nostalgia, shared our own versions of memories of the years of family vacations, and enjoyed being together as adults.
Monday evening, my boys and I went to the beach. It was great to see them romp in the water with their new boogie boards while I took pictures and allowed my mind to wander. That’s when I saw them.
There were about 3 different people flying kites on the beach. One a little parasail that danced and dipped at the deft hands of it’s master. One had a long twisting tail that flew in spirals. And one a triangular box kite.
The box kite was closest to me, and with the setting sun behind it in the dunes, I knew it was time.
The parable came back to life and as I watched it I started naming them, the hurts. The pain, anger, frustration and brokenness that had been my constant companion for nearly each day of the last 20+ months. I mounted it on the kite, and with it the names of those I felt had harmed me. I named them, whispered them out loud to the wind and watched as the kite string was let out more and more.
Though I wasn’t the physical owner of that kite, it was mine. That kite had come to the beach that evening just for me.
The taut line extended higher and higher in the bracing wind. If I had been holding that line, I would have let it run out and fly loose! A package on its way to God’s hand.
I don’t know what God would do with it, but I think that’s kind of the point. God takes over when I relinquish the need to control and that’s what forgiveness is: giving up the need to hold some pain in my own control.
A fallacy really, because trying to control something that brings you pain only leads to more pain, and in that way the pain is the one in charge and holding control. If I’m focused on the pain, I’m not moving forward, I’m not living, I’m not transforming to become whatever it is that God is trying to mold me into.
So let it fly! Let it go! And I’ll walk on down the beach aways to find the next adventure, the next stage, the next formation of ME.