By Dora Benn (Sydney, Australia)
There is a psychological phenomenon often experienced by mothers that allow them to forget the excruciating pain of childbirth. This is probably some blessing from God that allows the people in this country to have between six and twelve children. It was this same phenomenon that sent our wild gang of youths back to the dunes on day two after suffering sand-burn, sunburn, and a kind of emotional burn you feel when you realize you are going to be picking sand from your scalp for the next week. It is also the reason I can barely remember the majority of the climb up the Great Sand Dunes, except that each step forward would slip you a half step back, and David Grossmann would collapse for a nap every five paces.
What I do remember was the sunset over the dunes, and the cold turning our cheeks pink like the sky and cuddling together with coats and blankets as the stars came out. I also remember being slung off the side of the dunes that sent sand slipping into all my clothes, pinwheeling down at a breakneck pace, collapsing at the bottom then spinning like pennies under the sky because some wacko convinced us to go star tipping.
But, in all seriousness, the challenge of the climb and the beauty we were able to experience were a testament to the value of perseverance and grit. Learning to push through the seemingly futile exercise of scaling a sand dune, while a few jocks zoomed past you (calling out YOU Noah and Luke), was a great opportunity to ‘grow character’, as my father would say. (But then he also said that when we were used as child labor to install the pool in our backyard.)
On the hike up the sand dunes, we had a lot of time to think and reflect.
When I wasn’t dreaming about washing off the thin coat of sand that had accumulated on every exposed part of my body and taking a long nap on a cushy couch with a soft blanket and hot chocolate, I had time to consider the real value of what we were doing, and how it sort of spoke into our lives and spiritual journeys. I thought about the moments in life when everything seems to drag on without end, one work day after another often feels like you’re just plodding step by step up a sand dune when every step forward seems to send you a little slip back. Sometimes we feel afflicted as well.
I learned at the dunes the value of ‘pushing through’ those moments, taking each step at a time, and working with others through the struggle to make it to the summit.
On top of general exertion, the sun on our backs and the wind whipping flecks of sand around our ankles and into our shoes seemed to add insult to injury and it was all we could do to simply push on, backs bowed and chests heaving. Layered on top of any pain we are feeling, monotony becomes an incredible test. I learned at the dunes the value of ‘pushing through’ those moments, taking each step at a time, and working with others through the struggle to make it to the summit. In faith, we can be assured of our ‘mountain-top’ experience, knowing that God has prepared for us a place of ultimate glory, far superior to a bunch of sweaty, sand-encrusted young adults huddling on a dune, even with the stars as clear and beautiful as they were.
I was reminded of the allegory Paul used of ‘running the race marked out for us’ and how we must ‘strive with perseverance’. I was reminded that when life seems to become dry and slow, like wading through sand, our encouragement and our duty is to press on knowing that God has a place of beauty and peace waiting for us, and he has gone before us. He zoomed before us, with the ease and elegance of Noah and Luke, and is waiting for us with a smile (most likely not to push us down again … calling you out AGAIN, N o a h ).