When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed their mind about the calamity that God had said they would bring upon them; and God did not do it. (Jonah 3:10)
My family started holidaying at a beach on Phillip Island when I was maybe seven years old. This stretch of perfect kid-sized surf, maybe 400 meters, between two reefs of rockpools teethed with mussels and adorned with Neptune’s necklace and painted lady shells. It was just right for our family, an instant coming home. We would return to the Island more or less every summer holidays, and even when we could not stay in the house near that beach, we would shun any closer coastline to drive back it.
Every year, it was the same, but different; different and the same. Sometimes the surf was limp, sometimes the smooth black rocks that lined the steps were completely hidden by sand all summer long. Some years were light or heavy on crabs, or shells. Over time the sand dunes that we first tumbled down in wild abandon got sectioned off and were rehabilitated as sanctuary for endangered plovers – early on those dunes were always blinding, either bouncing off the bright sun, or wind-whipping grit into eyes – but gradually they became carpeted soft green. Different, but the same; the same and different.
Each summer I went back to that beach, I would be a year older. I would have lived through more or less 365 days, some very hard, some very dull, some full of joy. I grew and matured. I was the same person, a bit different each year.
Last year, my little family of four moved to the Island permanently for a dozen small reasons and the big one that it felt like what we needed to do. We have been here around six months now. We are glad to be here, we think about Warrnambool every day. We are healing back to the same people we used to be; we are finding different parts of ourselves that are good to discover.
I read recently something that I had never realised before: the Bible is full of examples of God changing Their mind. The Israelites argued and negotiated and got their King (1 Samuel 8). Jesus changed his mind to heal the Canaanite woman’s daughter after she talked back to Him (Matthew 15:22-28). To me this doesn’t mean God isn’t faithful or steadfast – it’s the opposite. They are so faithful that They meet us where we are at, not where we should be or where They would hope us to be even for our own sake. Over the past few years (which have been especially hard for me), I have learned how love does this. It grows as we grow, it reaches down when we shrivel and shrink. It has patience when we need to pause, or take flight. Each time the same love, expressing itself in whatever way is best for us that moment.
We now often revisit that beach I first went to as a seven-year-old. I am different, and the same. The beach is different, and the same. God is different and the same – always the same, always different as I need. Ω
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together daily stories and images from people in the congregation which are focused on God in this place. Why this theme? Read this! #Lent2023. Our Spiritual Geography © Sanctuary, 2023. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Full acknowledgement of country here.
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