A Time of Exposure

In yesterday's reading in Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent (by Albert Holtz, O.S.B. - the book of daily meditations I am reading during Lent), the author tells about spending a night in a village in coastal Spain.  When he first arrived, the tide was in and the bay was filled with water, upon which pretty boats bobbed.  The scene was picturesque.  He had planned to go and sit by the water the next morning to meditate, but when he got out of bed and looked out his window, the bay was gone.  Walking down to what had been the waterfront the day before, he saw that the tide was out, and that there were people working in the mud that was now exposed.

At first he was disappointed, but he began to watch the people working and discovered some were gathering clams and mussels and others were busy removing sludge that was the result of an oil spill years before, which they did every day at low tide, little by little cleaning up the bay.  He realized that both the high tide beauty and the low tide exposure were normal and natural.  One was not the "real" bay and the other not.

Father Holtz remarks that low tide is not particularly pretty or pleasant, but it is certainly revealing; he invites his readers to think about low tide times in their lives - after a death or other loss, an illness, or other "wilderness" time - and to wonder about what that time in our lives reveals about us and about our relationship with God and neighbor.

A time of exposure is certainly not pleasant or pretty.  It's often scary.  Having our outer layers - both our decorative layer and our protective layer - stripped away can be downright breath-taking, as in having the wind knocked out of us.  It leaves us vulnerable.  Somebody or something can come along and hurt us, take advantage of us, manipulate us.  It feels so risky to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

But it is a fruitful time as well.  The things to be cleaned out and things to be harvested become visible from such a time of being exposed, without our outer trappings.  We can really see ourselves, if we are not afraid to look.  We can see what needs to be nurtured and what needs to be scraped away.  One might discover a new passion, a talent, a gift, an insight about identity in such a time.  One might recognize things that are harmful or no longer needed - including a reliance on outer trappings for identity or harboring poisonous feelings as well as the crutches we grasp to prop us up in our times of fear and confusion.

We become stronger when we know about both our strengths and our weaknesses; when we are friends with our outer layer as well as our inner one.  We become fearless when we admit our faults and imperfections instead of working so hard to cover them up.  Not because we want to be known by our faults, not because we wear our faults proudly, but because we take their power away when we expose them.  We can let them go when we don't have to protect them any more.

And that's a risk worth taking.


Ray Barnes said…
A very powerfull post Penny, and one that 'hits all the right notes' with me. Now and then someone, you, in this case, puts into words the million confused thoughts milling round my tired brain.
You already know some of my story the rest is still unfolding and it is indeed, a time of discovery, new strengths and old weaknesses.
Balancing the two in a positive way seems to be the way forward.
Bless you for this.
As always, Ray, I'm glad to know that you find something here that helps you in your journey. Thanks for letting me know.
Perpetua said…
Excellent post, thank you. Sadly, I don't think I will be able to follow your blog as it stand, because of its format. I have fairly poor sight and even if I make the text bigger, yellowish-fawn on a red background is extremely hard for me to read - just not enough contrast for comfortable reading. Hope you don't mind me mentioning it.
Hello Perpetual - thanks for your comment. I'm glad you like the blog. You can read it in a different format (black print on white background) if you go to the bottom left of the blog where it says: Subscribe to: Posts (Atom) and click, you'll open a new window that has the photos but text is black on white background. You can bookmark that and whenever a new post is up, you can see it in that format. (You can also read comments that way, by clicking Subscribe to Post Comments (Atom).

I hope that will enable you to visit more often! Thanks for coming by!
P.S. to Perpetual - I do appreciate your mentioning it and have modified the "about this blog" section to include the information about how to access The Party in black and white. Thanks for reminding me that I should make that explicit!
Perpetua said…
Thanks, Penny, that makes a huge difference :-)
Yay! I'm so glad. Hope you'll come back often!
Nancy Wallace said…
I found the low and high tide idea a helpful image. Low-tide times reveal the rubbish washed up on the shore. Some of that just needs getting rid of, but I love the way some people beachcomb regularly - looking for things that can be made into beautiful art objects, or that are beautiful in themselves - like driftwood or shells. The low-tide times in my life have shown up the 'garbage' which really needed dealing with. They've also been times when others have been helped by me even though I was feeling completely useless. God's economy doesn't do waste.
Nancy, I really was taken with the high/low tide image, too. Especially the part about how they are both "real" and part of the rhythm of our lives!