I never used to notice the ground beneath my feet. Never appreciated how firm and dependable it felt, just took for granted that it was a solid mass. I’ve taken science classes and read the news stories of how the earth moves, of how it devastates when in one ordinary day what seemed immovable begins to falter. When those plates that are out of sight, out of mind below the earth’s surface shift, everything above begins to rumble and shake and tumble. Solid ground is no longer a casual assumption.
It’s difficult to know the scope of how such a rumbling and shaking changes you. How it shakes, not only your family and your memories, your present and your future, your physical and your emotional health, your friendships and relationships, but also your identity and personality. Your beliefs about God and life and meaning. It dangles truth in your face like a tattered question mark.
It often frustrates me that I am not as resilient as I used to be. No longer am I a fan of change, so flexible and adaptable, bending gracefully with each twist and turn and gust of wind. Towards life, I feel more like a pioneer in the race for a plot of land on the new frontier, staking my claim and hunkering down with vulnerability cloaked in weary determination. Change feels threatening, and I wish I understood why. Why sometimes the small things shake me, to the point of producing tears from a place much deeper than the prick that provoked these tears.
“After my dad died.” I wish this phrase weren’t so often the preface to understanding and explaining my reactions to life now. But it shook me, violently, and like a region that has experienced a significant natural disaster, where the recovery period extends for years after the tragedy, I am still rebuilding in the recognizable but highly altered landscape that is my life.
Growing up with God, though I was not sheltered from our own family pains and tragedies, I never questioned that he was solid. My rock. When things shook, he was immovable. But when my Papa died, so unexpectedly, so traumatically, everything shifted beneath my feet. I lost my bearings. God no longer felt safe, nor did life. I was introduced to the unsettling feeling that millions of others share because of what they’ve experienced: that tragedy can strike anyone at any time, unannounced. When the boy I loved broke my heart a year later, I again felt someone, something, I loved yanked from my hands unexpectedly. And while I’ve healed a lot from these losses, grown immensely through these losses, I feel the pain of the unfinished healing process whenever change is thrust upon me, whether big or small.
Change triggers fear. Fear springs from a lie I began to believe, beginning with my Papa’s death and deepening with the loss of relationship with the boy I loved. God is not safe, and not safe in a way that places his goodness in question. I am alone, left to face things that are once again beyond my control, and all I yearn for is a safe place. Solid ground. A place where I can settle in and rest, unmoved, unafraid that the people and things about life that I love will be jerked away. I want to catch my breath, to not be looking over my shoulder for the next bad thing to happen, to trust that some things are in fact real, albeit imperfect, even new love. But especially, to find that place of peace in God where I am settled in on the solid mass that is him, where all around me can shake but he doesn’t move.
I want to lay this lie to rest, this lie that I have no safe place, that nothing good in life will ever last, because it haunts me. Because it robs me of living life fully, of hoping for good things instead of fearing that bad things will always be lurking in the shadows. In the dark, this lie is huge and imposing, but there comes a day when it's time to face it squarely and flip the light switch on, to see it exposed for the wimpy, cowering creature it is in the daylight. Learning to trust again is a process; to know in the furthest corners of my heart that God may not be safe in all the ways I define the word, but he is forever good. That is the only unshakable ground.