When I worked at Sojourners Magazine many moons ago, on occasion I would sort through a box of books that authors sent for review and stumbled upon what I considered a gem: A Season of Mercy by Martha Manning. The author explains that the story is about finding God in loss and sorrow. I have used her image of sea or beach glass in a number of bereavement workshops, talks and rituals over the decades. I remember one summer several of us collected beach glass from all over the world for a national hospice and palliative care conference being held here for a ritual for participants.
The Manning story is about a woman who has miscarried and meets Sophia, a wise old sage who says she is the Keeper of the Lighthouse. She comes to her in a dream, dressed in a yellow slicker while they both walk along a beach. As they walk along, all the pent up emotions from losing her baby explode and find release. They talk about the beach, storms, and sorrow. At one point, Sophia bends down and picks up a piece of green, opaque sea glass. She explains the treasure in her hand.
I have long collected beach glass from around the world and the explanation is dear to me. Today as I walked along the beach, feeling consoled and warmed by the Son, my eyes searched out this jewel, as I recalled the essence of the story. Beach glass comes from something that was once whole and beautiful but is then broken and discarded. Its edges are sharp and can wound. Through the power of the sea, the dangerous jagged edges are polished and crystallized. What was once rejected has now a beauty of its own. What once was broken is now a desired gem, a collector’s delight. Like pain and sorrow, the glass has transformed into an object of beauty. If it is a piece of true sea glass, it will taste like tears because of the salt water. This is the wonder of sea glass. This is the Ignatian secret of finding God in all things, too. God uses everything to reveal God’s mercy and love for us.
The interesting thing about sea glass is that it is often stronger than it was originally. It no longer shatters as easily in its new form. This new creation does not come without a great cost. Only those of us who know the price see the richness as it sparkles on a shoreline. As Manning says at the end of her story: And in that moment the transformation is complete. The sea’s sorrow becomes the child’s joy and that is the mercy of God.
As I walked along the shore today, I knew God’s mercy as I picked up this treasure. My illness and surgery will transform me into a new creation. My tears of sorrow will be a treasured part of who I am. I am stronger and more confident in God’s hands than ever before. I trust God in new ways. I am ever grateful for a Saviour who walked along that beach with me today–the same One who wheeled me into the operating room, sat by my bedside as I recovered, and continues to keep an arm around my shoulder as we amble side by side into the future. The Spirit, Sophia, the Keeper of the Lighthouse, accompanies us on the way. I am definitely in good hands.
What sorrow has been transformed into a treasure in your life?
Do you recognize the new creation you have become and the gift of this brokenness?
Sophia, Sage of the Ages,
Keeper of the Lighthouse
You shine on our path
so that we may find
what has been lost.
Transform our brokenness
into beauty and wonder.
Sophia, Spirit of Creation,
thank you for your healing presence
in the stories of our lives.