Counting OnGrace

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Starfish Speak

Starfish Speak
© 2010 Chantelle Henderson
Saturday, May 15, 2010, 
Siesta Key Beach, Florida

A day that changed forever the power of believing in survival in spite of the fact that you may have been told that you are too weak to be a survivor, that you have no hope.  This is for the outcast, the uneducated, the forgotten ones, even those with illnesses who've been given death sentences.  Those, that like me, was, and still am, a starfish.
In preparation for a book I’ve been working on for quite some time, I engaged in an abundance of research regarding starfish.  The parallel between humans and the starfish are incredibly fascinating!  It became an obsession of sorts.  I found the correlation between starfish and human beings captivating.  That passion has never ceased and we’re talking over a year and a half ago that I started studying the starfish.
There were, and still are, seasons in my life where I view myself as a starfish.  I’m overtaken by the waves of life and carried to the shore – the shore of loneliness; of grief; of feeling like giving up.  I desperately needed someone to recognize that maybe, just maybe, I still had a chance of survival if they just believed in me. 
The starfish is a survivor.  In my research I found a priceless treasure that will forever be engrafted in my soul.  Starfish are admired for their ability to regenerate limbs, and in some cases, entire bodies [after a limb or even all their limbs have been cut]!  They are extremely flexible and by making itself rigid, the starfish is able to protect itself from being eaten, handled, or moved.  Believe it or not they don’t have eyes, ears, or noses and rely solely on their legs for almost everything.  I am reminded of
2 Corinthians 5:7 (Amplified Bible)

For we walk by faith [we regulate our lives and conduct ourselves by our conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, with trust and holy fervor; thus we walk] not by sight or appearance.

Starfish, when pricked, have a natural instinct to clam up and close.  God created them with the capability to change their body color to hide or escape from predators.  Doesn’t that sound like us –people.  We are so afraid of taking off the masks.  We are used to adjusting to change the essence of who we were created to be in order to be loved and accepted-to be protected from the judgment of others.  When “pricked” or offended, abused, or given up on, as a natural instinct we clam up and close.  Our need to be loved and wanted can cause us to be everything other than who we really are until we get to a point where WE DON’T KNOW WHO WE REALLY ARE-WHO GOD CREATED US TO BE. 
Starfish change form during early life and has a process of growing and developing that can take two months or more.  They were meant to live in the deepest parts of the sea. When I think of that fact it takes me to a passage in Titus.

Titus 3:3-8 (The Message)

3-8It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God's gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there's more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.”
I want to dive into depths of the sea of His kindness, love salvation, power of restoration, and divine emotional and physical healing.  That’s where we belong; not on the shore with the threat of never being thrown back into the sea where we belong.
So what are the threats to being on shore?  Being carried to shore by high tides (or the things of this world) are the one’s we often see as we stroll down the beach of this thing we call life.  Starfish can only survive two hours out of water.  My sincerest hope is that anyone who sees a starfish doesn’t take for granted that it’s been on shore for the two hours and will toss it as far in the sea as possible so it at least has a chance of survival.  I was about to be tested and learned a powerful lesson that  forever changed my outlook on those who seem like hopeless causes.  Even if it’s been over two hours, at least an attempt's been made to return it to where it belongs-where it was always meant to be.  The more I studied the starfish, the more clarity I gained.  Without spoken words, the knowledge that I’d obtained during my research on starfish spoke volumes to me about being a survivor and even more so, an over-comer.  It overcomes being broken and washed ashore and still somehow finds a way to regenerate and be restored to its' original state and not become a souvenir in some tourist store with a price tag on it that really is priceless.  Somewhere, someone decided that it wasn’t worth throwing it back into it’s natural habitat where it would at least have a chance at survival or maybe they’d already found it when without a doubt it had no more life in it.  How did they end up out of water, suffocating, on hot sand?  Only that starfish knows the true price of what it paid of not having survived.  Only the starfish knew how many people walked by and could have tossed it back into the sea but didn't.  It wasn’t until this Saturday that I was challenged to see if I’d really believed all the research from the year and a half I spent researching the starfish. 
I know everyone is tired of hearing me whine about moving to Florida after 27 years in Georgia – to an unfamiliar place where I know nothing or no one.  In a sense, I felt like I’d been carried by unexpected tides and ended up on a shore of unfamiliarity and uncertainty.  I make no apologies for still being in the grieving process of what was, while learning to embrace what now is.
There is only one place here that I find physical refuge in.  It's called Siesta Key Beach.  I’ve NEVER been an outdoors person, and certainly not one to go to the beach and be all mushy gushy about sunsets and waves and the calmness of the water when there are no crashing waves.  During my yearly vacation(s) I do LOVE sitting on screened in balconies with the sound of fountains and the sound of kids playing and adults laughing while playing cards.  Surprisingly, Siesta Key is the one place I’ve found here that makes it feel remotely like home.  Ryan is in awe, saying that he’s never seen me like this.  That at the beach I am like a little kid, playing in the sea, burying my best friend’s hand under a pile of sand so she couldn’t leave to head back to Georgia (which, of course, failed), and just living in the moment with wreckless abandonment.  We’ve been married 13 years so for him to make that statement is making me wonder why the change?  I suppose that’s another blog.
Saturday, I was at Siesta Key Beach, the refuge I was just mentioning.  Our family goes every Saturday that it’s not raining or predicted to rain.  

I was reading and listening to the soundtrack to Titanic when Ryan and Jeremy came up to me with so much excitement, “Look!  You’re not going to believe what we found for you!”  It was a small starfish.  “Are you sure it’s not still alive, Ryan?”, I asked.  “Oh honey, I am positive.  It’s deader than dead.  Trust me, you can tell.”  They laid the starfish down and went back out to the water to lay on the raft and play their water games.  My mind went back and forth to all the research I’d done the previous year.  For a couple hours I could not concentrate.  I kept feeling like there was something about this starfish that tugged at my heart.  Finally, the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit said, “Throw it back into the sea.”  Usually, I don’t debate, but my response was to justify that because Ryan assured me that it was dead there was no point.  The feeling that I needed to throw it back into the sea kept growing stronger and stronger to the point that I couldn’t even concentrate on anything.  By now it was be obedient and ask questions later!  I immediately called Ryan with urgency to come and get it to take it back out.  “Honey, this thing is dead.  I’m telling you.  Look at it.  It’s been dead.”  I looked at him and he knew I was serious when I said, “Ryan, I don’t know if it’s dead or not, but I can’t let it continue to sit here knowing that there’s a chance that it may not be-that it could survive.”  He was irritated with me as he shrugged his shoulders and very reluctantly walked back into the sea.  I watched as his ankle, then his knees, then his waist dissapeared, until finally I could just see his head above the water.  After a few minutes he came back wide-eyed and in disbelief.  “Chantelle!!!  Oh my God baby, you were right.  It was still alive.  I saw it as I held it in my hand!  It’s started moving slowly and these things started popping up.  It was alive!!!!  How did you know when I assured you it was dead?”  He was like a kid in a candy store and I just smiled.  I didn’t say a word until I processed myself how I had almost allowed Ryan to convince me that it was dead and then begged him to return it to sea.  “Ryan, I couldn’t sit here without being stirred by Heavenly Daddy to at least give it a chance.”, I said with tears streaming down my face.
He went back to play and I sat there soaking in my salty tears, asking myself with the deepest conviction, “Is that what has happened to me?  Is that what I’ve done to others?  I knew the answer.  There were people that I’d come in contact with that I just assumed were too far gone in their life that it wasn’t worth giving them a chance by putting them back in a sea of restoration, encouragement, strength, love, compassion, healing, and hope through the power of God's word.    God only knows the number of people that I have done that with.  Thank Heavenly Papa there were those who tossed me back into the sea.  It was a sea of forgiveness, mercy, love, friendship, healing and a belief in my ability to survive.  They saw beyond my flaws and looked at me through the Father's eyes.  I did recall those that I’d done that for just as well, but they outnumbered the ones I did help.
How easily we forget that we are never without hope.  NONE of us are lost causes. 
Jeremiah 29:10-11 (The Message)
“…I'll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
He’s got a plan for each and everyone of us.  But in the craziness of this thing we call life we lose perspective of that, and our hearts are hardened and blinded to those in our lives who need to hear the message that they do have a future and a hope.  It took people believing in me and telling me that I was more than just what I was doing or my lifestyle at that time.  They painted a picture of what could be.  They didn’t leave me on the shore, but they tossed me back into the deepest parts of the sea where I could come back to life, regenerate, grow new limbs, and continue to be where and what I was meant to be – in the sea of the loving arms of a Heavenly Daddy who is full of mercy and compassion-Who gives me the grace to walk through life in times and seasons that are unfamiliar and at times, frightening.
You’ll know.  You will know when that outcast and “hopeless” person [starfish] crosses paths with you.  What are you going to do?  Even if you think they're dead, are you still going to give it a chance of survival, or simply leave it on the shore wondering what could have been had you just taken the opportunity to see if there was still life in that person?
Even as I write this, I mourn for the people I’ve let slip through my hands like the powdery sand I was holding.  People that I know were placed in my life because they needed the sea and yet I left them on the shore.  I can’t go back and change it or wonder what could have been.  If I do, I can't move forward in helping the ones He's given me during this time in my life.  I can only move forward and so can you.
I never knew starfish could teach me so much about the urgency of reaching out to others that are just waiting for someone, anyone to say, “You are loved and I believe in you.  I'm going to throw you back into the sea and watch you as you emerge into this survivor and overcomer”.
I refer to The Message Bible a lot, although it’s not what I use for studying or writing sermons.  I just like the fact that it says in blunt terms what we as Christians are hesitant to say – truth in its rawest form.  I use this scripture for most of my facebook status' because I have to remind myself that it’s not the lofty, educated, well-to-do folks that He uses to change the world.  But it’s people whose lives reflect that of the starfish.
1 Cor. 1:26-27 - The Message

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these... "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?”

Last but certainly not least, I want to share a quote from C.S. Lewis that someone sent to me who knew my testimony.  It still resonates with me every time I read it.  Because you see, again, like the starfish, the prostitute represents society’s throw-always.  They are not the danger or threat to our modern day religion(s).  It’s people like me, who at times, thought I was too busy, holy, or too caught up with myself to care about leaning into God and giving Him a chance to change me so that I could touch someone else’s life.
"Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger."

C.S. Lewis

I never thought I would say this, but maybe it’s time to evaluate ourselves to see if we are the prostitutes or if we are the proud, avaricious, and self-righteous.  Are we a starfish-thrower, or a starfish-on-the shore walk-away?  Strange questions, I know.  But something to seriously think about.

C & The Starfish
*I have to be honest and say that while I was being convicted about whether or not to keep the starfish Ryan and Jeremy brought to me, I did take a picture.  It looked lifeless, huh?  Who would have thought it had a chance to survive?