We drove along the familiar road along the gulf shore. It was good to be back home visiting family and enjoying the beauty of Pensacola Beach. The sand is known for its pure white color, resembling snow on a sunny day. Several years ago this area was devastated by hurricane Ivan. Even though we have visited the area several times since then, I am still amazed at the impact the area sustained. Entire roads broke apart, bridges collapsed or had sections washed away and lucky home owners had extensive damage while unlucky home owners could not even locate home remnants. It was both heartening and humbling to see how much the area has rebuilt and repaired infrastructure. The beach front is dotted with stout old structures that have weathered numerous hurricanes mixed with shiny new construction of replacement homes with upgraded hurricane resistant architecture.
Hurricanes are not new to anyone whose home is on the gulf coast, as are tropical depressions and storms. Rough surf, high winds and powerful water surges are sure to leave a mark on the face of the area each year. The road we now traveled was lined on one side by high sand dunes. Twisted trees and seaside shrubs protrude above the white sand held in place by the root system of the vegetation. On the opposite side of the road is flat desolation. The shore is like a whiteboard wiped clean. It reminds me of a barren desert and a snow covered valley at the same time. The wind is blowing and sand is drifting. The edges of the road begin to blur and blend as the sand sifts and settles beyond the boundary which normally marks where asphalt meets beach. There is a tropical depression in the gulf and we are getting a little preview, reminder that hurricane season is in full bloom. There would be no hurricane this visit, but the images we surveyed were striking reminders of the importance of roots.
Beach restoration requires extensive replanting of Pensacola’s infamous Sea Oats. Sea Oat root systems are perfect for anchoring the windblown sand and allowing the grains to pile up and form the familiar dunes one expects to see at the beach. Sea Oats are protected and respected by most Floridians who understand the need for these plants to survive. Beach goers carefully walk on paths or designated areas to avoid trampling these seemingly fragile plants. It doesn’t take a large oak tree, concrete forms or forestation to build up the dunes; it only takes some well placed, well anchored and well protected roots.
How much like that are we? The world will blow us and wash us where it will at times. Sometimes I feel in control of who I am and what I tend to be, yet other times I fall into step with the powerful surge of the world and find myself leveled or misplaced. Like those lightweight grains of sand comprising the snow white beaches before me I require anchoring. I need something to rest against and build upon. I need to be able to grasp something larger than myself and hold fast to that which has been in place for all of time.
Lord I want to cling to you as the anchoring root in my life. Your faithfulness, strength, grace and love are sufficient for all the storms which may try to move me from your will and shake me from my foundation.