One of the Endless Connections Between Sand and Spirituality
My kids are sand dwellers. Some days they closely resemble sand-dwelling, desert lizards because of the absurd length of time they spend in our turtle-shaped sandbox in the backyard. Trying to brush off and discard every grain of sand on their bodies prior to coming indoors is an unfeasible task to say the least. Usually they end up napping in a bed full of tiny grains of sand undetectable to the naked eye, but easily recognizable by the ear, for the grinding sound of what becomes human sandpaper pressing against their mattress with every rise and fall of their chest indicates the presence of the grainy culprits. Tasha and I periodically shake their mattresses free of the chafing-causing little devils only to free them into the depths of the murky bowels of their bedroom carpet—a haven of sorts for bugs and sand. That’s not to say we don’t eventually vacuum it up. But I have my doubts as to the effectiveness of the sucking action. Not so much because of the vacuum cleaner, but because of the condition of the environment in need of sucking. Regardless, sand has become part and parcel of the Via family.
Sand is important in Scripture. It was often used as a word-picture or an analogy to describe many things, perhaps because of its nearly universal recognition. After all, sand was everywhere in the ancient near eastern world. You couldn’t walk out your door without being reminded of that fact. It encircled and surrounded city walls. The desert became a place of escape and solitude. A place of barrenness and waste, except for the presence of sand. The biblical writers understood this connection. God understood this connection. He told Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the heaven and the sand on the seashore (Gen. 22:17). And Abraham immediately understood the connection. There was no way he could count the grains of sand on every seashore. Absurd! And that was the point.
Neither can we count the thoughts of God toward every person. This is where the connection between the countlessness (a word? is now) of sand and one of the universal, biblical truths it conveys hit home for me today. Psalm 139:17-18 puts is this way:
17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand
When I awake, I am still with You.
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. God’s thoughts toward us outnumber the sand. There’s a bunch of sand in my carpet right now. More than I can count. God’s thoughts outnumber them. There’s a bunch of sand in my sandbox right now (not as much as there used to be). God’s thoughts toward me and you outnumber them. There’s a bunch of sand at Carolina Beach right now. God’s thoughts toward me and you outnumber them. There’s a bunch of sand in the U.S. right now. God’s thoughts toward me and you outnumber them. I think you get the point.
But two things really baffle me about God’s thoughts toward us.
They’re not random thoughts. They’re not evil thoughts. They’re not belittling thoughts. They’re not condemning thoughts. No, they’re precious thoughts. Precious and vast. Vastly precious. Countlessly precious. Endlessly beautiful thoughts. Beautiful thoughts toward me and you. Precious thoughts toward ugly sinners. Beautiful thoughts toward wicked people. Precious thoughts toward the atheist. Precious thoughts toward the agnostic. Precious thoughts toward the pagan. Precious thoughts toward the religious. Precious thoughts toward the white collar, “dignified” sinner. Precious thoughts toward every man and every woman.
2.They exist regardless of what our thoughts toward Him are in return.
Chances are, none of us think about God all the time. And even if we did, our thoughts wouldn’t always be precious. Sometimes they’re shrewd. Sometimes they’re selfish. Sometimes they’re inconsistent. Sometimes they’re irrational. Sometimes they’re jealous. Sometimes they’re utterly hateful and demoralizing. But God’s thoughts are always precious, and they’re always directed toward sinful human beings.
I’m reminded of what Paul said about the love of God in Ephesians 3:17-19.
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
His love is wide and long and high and deep. That’s why the Psalmist said, “Where can I flee from Your presence? (Ps. 139:7)” He’s everywhere! His love is infinite. His precious thoughts toward me and you are eternal and endless like the sand of the sea (and the sand in my kids’ carpet).
Thank God today for His precious thoughts toward you. Let it move you toward a greater understanding of how wide and long and high and deep is His love.