28 December 2021
I stand on the beach, my feet steady on the rocks by the shore, lapped gently by the outgoing tide. I scoop a handful of sand and tiny, tiny shells and watch as it slips through my fingers.
Lines learned long ago, from some long-forgotten place, drift into my mind, ‘Big rocks into pebbles, Pebbles into sand, I really hold a million, million rocks here in my hand.’ And I am fascinated again by the sand falling through my fingers.
From what desert place did these particles of earth spring from? Which winds have blown these tiny grains from somewhere else to here, and which winds will blow them somewhere else again? From what rocks have they been ground by wind and water into fine, silvery sand?
The rocks beneath my feet are firm and yet will also one day become sand. The cliffs behind me stand strong, but were once upon a time larger and stronger than they are now.
I walk back to my car and notice the grasses, shrubs, and strong trees growing out of the sand, and the soil beneath the sand. I think of the mighty eucalypts deeply rooted in the sand of K’gari (sometimes known as Fraser Island) and wonder how they can grow so strong and tall. I think of tiny shoots, appearing bravely in parched earth, and flourishing suddenly following heavy rain after years of drought.
This earth, this dust, clay, stone – so strong, so fragile – sustains and feeds life in so many forms. I hold a million, million rocks here in my hand. What treasure is held within each particle of earth, what richness of precious metal or mineral is hidden inside, what sparkling gemstone is buried deep within the unlikely outer crust?
Earth yields its treasures, like scattered gemstones in dry riverbeds, hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places – all of this to reveal the awe-filled creativity of our God. What minerals, what goodness, what treasure is held within ordinary clay?
Particles of sand still cling to my fingers, and as I brush them off, I am aware that even the skin and flesh of my hand is formed from dust and will one day return to dust. And yet treasure is contained within! The vessel of my body, (not just hands, but legs, and torso, arms and every other part of my flesh), this holy jar of clay, earthy, and coated with dust, containing more than a few cracks and chips, is also filled with grace, love, wisdom, kindness and compassion.
Paul’s words, written so long ago, remind us we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Earth – created to hold treasures within, to stand firm as age-old mountains, to grow food as rich fertile soil, to nourish forests and green valleys, to contain the rivers and waterways. Earth – the vessel that holds and expresses our love, our tenderness, our creativity; the outer casing of divine imagining and brilliant genius; the container that holds our fire and passion and flaws and fragility. Earth, mingled with air and water and fire created by God – holds all things together… holy ground upon which we stand.
As you reflect on these words, and on the element of earth in all its variations you see around you, how is God calling you to respond?