September 29, 2004
O To Grace, How Great A Debtor~revised~
Foggy sunset on the "flats" at Seal Beach. Brown Pelicans and gulls circling in...
"Its so cold, and where did the heavy fog come from?" she thought as she got out of her car and walked toward the pier, just as she did every Thursday. "I called the Harbor Masters office and they said it was beautiful out." She went to therapy on Thursdays. Two hours of group, and a hour of individual, a grueling event for most, but a life line of sanity in a insane life that was imploding around her...
The pier divides the beach into two sides, and the currents in conjunction with the two long breakwaters created two very different topographical areas, the northern half,"The flats" where most swimming and surfing takes place, as well as a windsurfing area off limits to swimmers, and the southern side where huge piles of sand had been heaped against the tide and the rip currents created wonderful waves for more experienced surfers. But it had also created "sinks" depressions that could be quite deep that filled with water. These were also the places where the rip tide could haul the unwary out to sea should you not be careful when swimming there. Beyond the south beak water is the firing range for the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, not a place to be swept into even on a clear day for normally there is a destroyer positioned in the bay...
She is thinking only of the day. Her boss in a rage threw a bundle of drawings at her, the heavy clip holding them together dug a gouge out of the plaster of the wall, where she had ducked to get out of the way...he could have hurt her, Drunk again," she thought "Story of my life"... She needed this job, it paid little, but it provided food and gas for the car, and the five dollars a week token payment that Amy the counselor lady asked for. A very small price for a listening ear. Someone to help her sort out all of the decisions that had to be made. For since both of her men had left, B. in July and J. two weeks prior, all was falling to her and she wasn't sure what to do. How to pay the mortgage when her whole months wages didn't begin to cover the payment. Was J coming back, should she try to list and sell the house and for how much and where would she go as the family made it clear that the things that had gone on in her life and her love for two men were disgusting to them and she was not welcome to come home.
She reached up and scratched her head. The short broken off hair itched... The burnt scalp was peeling. Two weeks ago she had beautiful knee length hair, which she had spiral permed into soft ringlets... When it was time for the touchup no thought was given to it until 5 minutes into the operation when he head felt like fire and the solution was washed out. Three days later, her supervisor, who was a kind old man, and loathed the drunkard that he had to work for, called her into the office and had his secretary cut the remaining hair off, for it was breaking off and leaving a trail wherever she walked, and advised her to "wear a bandanna until it grows out...It will look ok on the dock and I will explain"...She thanked him, and wondered if life was going to continue to go down hill...
"This was just the latest," she thought, as she reached the sand and walked to the southern side of the beach. "First the earthquake that ruined our home, then the accident that crippled J and left him unnerved, then B came back into our lives and we got all caught up in cruising again and I know that messed things up. Why did J let him move in? So I would fall crazy in love again and leave ...I know the answer...Cause he was crazy in love with him and wanted to prove he wasn't...So he'd have reason to dispose of me for that chick that he's hung up on now... What do I do now?..."
She walks slowly, the fog is so think that it swirls around her like a living thing. She hears the cry of the seagull, and the roar of the ocean. She stops then quickly ducks as a Brown Pelican swoops over her missing her by just a few feet. A terror is building inside of her...the fog, the near miss, and the incessant voices in her head, always there, but louder at times like this, they are saying...
"Turn to the right", "Walk to the right"
"I am alone" she thought "for no one in this world wants me, not the way I have lived not the way that I look now...Used up, burnt out, useless, no skills other than those a hooker uses...Yeah that is what J said the other night on the phone when he called to tell me that all financial support was at an end and he wasn't bringing the artwork or any of the valuable stuff back. I could lump it and Id better come up with rent for his house cause he was throwing me out if I didn't come up with the money. Imagine a house with my name on it and he thinks he can throw me out? But what about what else he said, that "Id best be getting out into the street as that was all I was good for and that Id not be keeping this job"..After today maybe hes right...
"turn to the right." "Walk to the right"
Walking again...Better watch out, those sinks are out here could break my neck. She suddenly slid down 10 feet into the first sink. "Whoa, they have piled the berms up for the winter already," as she climbed back up to the top " Id better walk to the left a bit so I dont fall into number two, its usually deeper..."
Its been hard to be alone. For the first time in her life she is living alone. In some ways she was growing to love the new freedom, but at night, She and her cat Creature, lived in a scary house that sustained the heaviest damage in the 1987 Whittier Earthquake, in our city. That was a terrible day. B had just spent the first night with us and was getting up when at 7:42am the shock wave hit our house at the perfect angle. Amplified by our 25000 gal swimming pool that abutted the house it turned the 5.9 quake into an estimated 6.5, shoving the house and garage 3 degrees off center, destroying both fireplaces and damaging the garage so badly it had been redtagged, while the neighbors cleaned up spills, we had contractors out. Only the post office and old brick building, and the 5-605 interchange were in worse shape. "I knew I was going to die if the shaking hadn't stopped, and I knew that I was bound for hell as well for hadn't the Sunday School teachers always said that if you die in your sins unconfessed that you were hell bound?" She thought. Night after night the aftershocks poured in. The master bedroom was on a separate foundation and safer than the rest of the house and the three of us slept together holding hands like children in the dark afraid to sleep. We had all been badly traumatized by it. Now I was alone with it no place to go, not enough money to move out...
"Turn to the right, Walk to the right"
"Id be ok, if someone would love me, if someone would help me"... Another Pelican swooped down and seeing that it was a human quickly veered off, She lost her balance and stumbled, losing track of where she was in relation to the beach. The tears began to come. In the aching emptiness of soul she got up and walked crying furiously, not caring what was ahead. Hands pressed over her ears trying to hold down the incredible inner din of voices shrieking in her head...
Go to the right, walk to the right....
The ocean is roaring to the right. She is too close to the surf line and goes falling, tumbling into the deep gash of the second sink, the huge sand pit near the waterline...She lays there listening to the ocean and the voices and her own breathing and feels something around the edge of her mind. Something dreadful that she doesn't want to remember...
"Get up! Get up! and walk to the right..."
...It was a sunny day and she only meant to go to the pretty sparkling water but the wave came in and grabbed her and she was dragged out to sea in the rip tide. She remembers screaming "Mommy! Mommy!" and seeing her mother on the sands holding her baby brother in her arms. After an eternity the tide suddenly turns and she was brought back to shore and to her mother who scolded her for going out into the water.
"Get up! Walk to the right! You cheated us once but not this time!"
The voices inside of her head screamed in fury as this previously unknown incedent came to mind. She sobbed and in total dispair said "God, if you really are everywhere are you here?..."
Out of the fog came a voice that said "I AM"
The Seal Beach Peir shot from the 2nd sink
She sits up so quickly sand flies in every direction. "You are what?" she demanded then thought "Oh, this is great, you are really slipping now. Not only do you hear voices in your head, but you are hearing them outside your head as well. There is nobody out here, foolish enough to be walking out here in this fog but yours truly..." Then the voice returns and says
She likes the voice, it is a sound she could listen to the rest of her days and not grow tired of. Years later she will be asked if the voice is male or female, its more than that... its every beautiful sound you can ever imagine, like music, and it is pitched just above the roar of the surf, but not so loud as to be frightening. looking around she says "OK, enough of the joke, if soemone else is here, show yourself and help me out of the sink hole before the tide comes up." There is silence just the surf and the birds... She sighs and asks the fog " So You arent going to help me?" and rolling out of the fog came The Voice again
Something gnaws at her. Something from the past, from time so long before that she had nearly forgotten about it. It was before the past 10 years of searching and struggling for purpose and meaning, looking for acceptance and love with men and parties and money and drugs and a lifestyle that shamed her even as she sat on the beach in the damp fog. It was before the incedents that shredded what little faith that she had in a God and in people, as she struggled in a upbringing that was viewed as pitiful by outsiders, and criminally neglectful by others, but nothing was ever done about it. The memory is of songs and stories at a church that was like a warm home in a storm, but that was before the boy and the stairwell and the denial that such a thing could happen in their church and didnt I come from that basket case family with the mad drunken father and the mad church lady mother and the wild brother? I must be crazy too and Id best leave and not come back until I repented of the lie I was telling...
Yes that was when I decided that God didint really exist and that it was a lie. That being a Christian was a lie and the bible was a book of stories as they said it was in school. But what did they say that Gods name was... and The Voice came out of the fog again....
Yes, that was it. This is GOD speaking... God... Well if I have lost my mind finally, I might as well make the best of it. "Ok, if you are God, and you are going to help me then answer me this. How come my life is such a mess? Why doesnt anyone love me and why do I have to deal with all of this? Tell me that! Why have you ignored me all of these years? Why did you let me get swept out to sea right here so long ago..."
In the silence that followed, she was taken back to that memory of being swept out to sea by the surf in the sink where she was sitting. She sees her mother standing on the shore watching her as the tide pulls her out. In later years she was told of the incedent that mother wouldnt put her brother down for fear that he would crawl out into the water after her and she would lose us both. That was suppose to be and acceptable explanation for the neglect. This rip tide never gives up the victims until days later when they wash up at the Weapons Station miles down shore. But not that day. That was a bonefide miracle. That a toddler would survive and be swept back in where she was taken by the tide... Only God could have done that
"God did you save me then?" she said quietly. Silence... Then one after another came the memories of other times, some very violent, others just stupid, right up to the morning of October 1 1987, When the massive quake rolled though her home, the large objects that barely missed her and the chimney bricks that fell. The fact that she had just been in the now condemned garage, where all of the boxes tools and things had fallen from the rafters. She had been saved more times than she knew...
"Are you still here, God"
She notices something else. The voices in her head have gone silent. For the first time in her concious life she doesnt hear many voices in her mind, just her own voice, her spirit is at peace. There is inner quiet. The aching emptiness still hurts but is not unbareable. Her mind is not spinning and insted seems to be tracking and mentaly she sees lists of things that need to be done...
"God, did you fix me? I dont feel broken any more..." "Hey I dont want you to leave once I go and I have to go cause Amy is waiting for me...Are you going to stay with me?"
The fog was lifting! A golden sun was peaking out from behind the clouds and as I stood there the beach and the peir was gilded with a light like I had not seen. I could see that if I faced the peir and walked to the right I could easily walk out of the sink, and up to the top of the high sand berm, and back towards the peir with no difficulty. Again that wonderful sound came to my ears.
She said "Yes, You Are..." and she began to laugh, Laugh like she had not laughed in so long. Laugh as tears are running down her face. Laugh for a unknown future that she was no longer afraid of.
She turned and looked at the 2nd Sink. From the top of the berm, it seemed as deep as the Grand Canyon while inside of it... "Are you sure, God? Maybe I am not worth the trouble its going to take to save me..." The sun began to warm her, drying the damp clothing and causing the sticking sands to drop away...The wind was blowing the last of the fog inland and like caressing song The Voice resounded
She walked to her car, climbed in and never looked back
From Seal Beach peir looking north westward towards the Long Beach Harbor/Port of Los Angeles. That is the Long Beach, California skyline in the distance...
Im sure that you have read this and said "Gee, thats a nice story, doesnt this belong on the blog you have for fiction?" Well, no as this is not fiction. This is my story, the retelling of an event that happened on this day September 29,1988 that completly changed my life. I went on to that counseling session and chuckled through the two hours of group, unable to explain to the others what was going on.
Once the left, Amy the social worker looked at me and said "OK what is so funny?" I said " You are not going to believe it..." and launched into the narrative that you have just read. Amy, an Observant Jew, kept scooting to the edge of her chair until she stood up and stared at me mouth agape..
"You have spoken with God, like Moses and the burning bush..." Amy said
"Yes, apperently so" I replied
"Well," Amy replied with no trace of disbelief and all sincerity, "what are you going to do.."
I repiled "Anything He tells me to. I believe that He will be with me. He promised."
I returned home. There was a note from J on a list of things to do that I had written and left on the table. He agreed to all of them from selling the house to my calling my lawyer and signed a note stating to whom in may concern that he would be agreeable to all terms that I negotiated. A first from a very prideful, controling person. I felt the nudge to go for it... to grab a hold of life
A few months prior to this Legal Aid had refered me to a lawyer "that takes cases like yours." and I met Ed, who was less concerned for the divorce and more concerned for my soul. He was an Elder at Hosanna Chapel (Calvary Chapel) of Bellflower. I do believe that his prayers led dierectly to the events of this day and to the future events that occured in my life. He is with our Lord now and I look forward to meeting him in heaven.
I sold the house as is in 30 days for a large profit. I found a home to move into that turned out to be owned by other Hosanna attendees. I lived there 6 years and flowered into the person you know today. I entered intensive counseling at BIOLA University and spent 5 years working out the many issuse in my life. Its a work in progress. My divorce from J was final in 1989, B showed up in my life just as Woody and I started dating, Woody told him to get lost more or less and he has. There have been many bumps in the road but for the most part there has been peace of mind. It was all Gods doing.
Miracles, signs and wonders have followed but also a lot of pain too. Its not easy to follow the narrow way, but it is the right way. I have never ceased to be glad for it. Even more so on the 15th anniversary of this event.
One thing that came about was learning how much I had learned as a child growing up Baptist. I had learned my Bible verses and the hymns, but I was 18 inches away from salvation. It was all in my head, not in my heart. It isnt about the "Sinners Prayer" attending church or how much you do for God. Its about relationship and trusting Him for everything. I know that salvation occured on that beach, because of the radical transformation of life that continues to be transformed day by day. Its all about Him,I only received the gift. Its all about Jesus...Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise!
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming toungues above
Praise His Name! Im fixed upon it,
Name of God's redeeming love!
Hither to Thy love has blessed me,
Thou has drawn me to this place
And I know Thy hand will lead me
Safely home by Thy good grace
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Bought me with His precious blood!
Oh,to grace, how great a debtor,
Duly Im constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here's my heart, Lord take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!
Robert Robertson 1758