Magnified images of single grains of sand taken by Dr. Gary Greenburg
I came across this beautiful picture a few weeks ago in a magazine I picked up at the library. It turns out sand isn't brown or "sand" colored at all - holding a handful is like holding a rainbow as each piece is composed of tiny pieces of coral, lava and shells, among other things. Isn't it crazy, so much beauty right in front of us, beneath us, clinging to our clothes and sticky kids, pouring out of our shoes and socks every time we stand at the ocean's shore - all of these tiny, broken bits of beauty right on the edge of all that chaos - who could imagine such a thing?
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The God we find in Genesis 1 is too creative to look out over the dark primordial chaos and say, "Yeah, I ain't got nothin' to work with here." Instead God looks and pauses as a smile starts to spread and the creative juices get flowing. All that nothing gets God thinking, imagining and soon all that's good is flowing out of his words, out of the same wide-smiling mouth of God.
The fact that God is creative tells us that dust and darkness and death are never what we fear them to be. Some of the most beautiful people I know are the one's who've been most deeply broken by life, but who cling to and allow their belief in God's creative power to recreate them. They, like the trees and rivers and mountains, become living, breathing proclamations of God's creative power. Gungor's song, "Beautiful Things" says, "You make beautiful things out of the dust, you make beautiful things out of us." What if we really believed this? What if we believed God sees more than dust and darkness and death when he looks at us, when he looks at our world? What if we started seeing this way too?
This past Sunday we practiced our hope by writing the areas of our lives that need to be recreated on slips of paper and burying them in a sandbox as we came forward for communion. Silly, right? We all know nothing much grows in sand and that a little bread dipped in wine is just that. But the invitation remains to see beyond the chaos, the darkness, to trust in the One who causes streams to flow in the desert and transforms bits of wine and bread into that which promises to transform us all.
We swallow the bread, we sip the wine and something new begins to spring up through the dry, dusty cracks of our lives - we are being re-created. Hope begins its work in us - the hope that things are more than what they seem, that even here, even now, the creator God is speaking goodness into being.
I know it's hard. Some days I could swear that everything I see is covered with dust, layers of brokenness, layers of not-good-enough and never-amount-to-nothing-ness. The world seems so entrenched in its deadly ways and I choose too often to linger in the valley of the shadow of all this death; choosing life comes hard and often flies in the face of rationality. Sand is just sand after all and we do our best to shake it off and move on.
The world we live in is starving for hope, for something to believe in, that's why we fight so hard for our little brands of right and wrong, for anything that promises power and control. Maybe, though, if we were to look through the lens of Christ we would find that everything we're waiting for, longing for, has already begun, right here in the midst of us. The mystic poet Rumi says,
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about."
Maybe the world isn't a battlefield of data and sound bites, an endless round in the race to control and interpret information. Maybe it's a field full of wild flowers sprouting up defiantly, daringly in the midst of all this chaos and darkness - can you make the time to see them? There's one at your feet just now, waving and swaying in the sunlight, exuding the scent of life and hope and love that overcomes fear.
Or maybe the world is a sandy shore, a million pieces of beauty and light laying there beneath our feet. Can you see it? "Lay down here on the shore," God says, "Let your body rest, here, in the sand. Let these millions of pieces of broken beauty hold you until you can see them, feel them for the truth they are; until you can see yourself for the broken bit of beauty you are. Let the water wash over you, don't be afraid of the chaos. I'm creating you anew, even here, even now."