A Time of Exposure
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.