The heat was on! An advisory, in fact. The shade and clouds, sparse. The distance, minimal. But oh that terrain: deep sand. The kind where you feel you are simply sinking, barely advancing, despite all of the effort you are expending. Will I ever make it back to my car? Why didn’t I bring my water with? Those were my dramatic reactions to the very short hike I went on at the National Seashore. Those reactions felt severe and real enough, though, in those moments. I was also the only one out there, so to keep myself entertained, I was pretending I was on a deserted island and evaluating my resources. What would I use for shelter? Is that weird fruit-looking thing edible? (No, there is never a dull moment in my mind…)
I also can’t just see anything at face value, it seems. In nature especially, I see so many stories and lessons. The one I thought about in reflection to this day was how mental health battles are similar to that short hike.
I’ve had my share of struggles. I’ve been to places I wish not to return to ever.
When we are in the midst of those personal battles, to the outsider, it may not seem worthy of such mental and physical distress–the distance, the goal, seems short and simple–but to the one facing it, sometimes all of the mental and physical strength one can possibly even imagine summoning is needed to simply get up. To take steps beyond that can seem impossible. It is the deep sand. In the sweltering heat.
We feel completely alone, like on my imaginary island, even though others are actually there. We see no end to the trail. We lose hope. And with lost hope, we lose the strength and determination to go on. I knew the distance to my car. I knew I would be completely fine, that my discomfort was but a brief nuisance. But in real-life mental-health scenarios, it is that end-sight that is crucial. We must believe, no matter how far we actually are, that we are almost to the car. We can’t give up, when around the next bend, everything may very well end
up all right.
We don’t think, like I did in my mock scenario, though; we don’t usually see those resources, think about how we could use them, need them. But we do. We shouldn’t do it alone. Most of time, we simply cannot.
All of us need someone to lean on, at the very least. Someone who has come from the direction we are headed to reassure us what is around the bend is the “all right” and beyond, that they know the way, that they will walk beside us. They have brought water, too, to give us a needed boost.
We all need hope. And we need to whole-heartedly believe in an achievable, better tomorrow. Sometimes that tomorrow takes time to arrive at. Sometimes, it is just a few more steps away. Leaning on a higher power seems essential to me to acquire this faith.
If you are on this deep-sandy path, keep going. Take the next step. Then the one after. Do the next right thing. And then the next.
And if you have arrived or were never lost in the first place, help another find the way.
Footprints in the Sand
by Mary Fishback Powers
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
All images ©LauraDenise