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Finding Your Footing
A companion metaphor for "deconstruction."
I’m going to date myself here, but I turn 40 this week, and I’m embracing it (as I type this, anyway).
When I was in high school, I worked at a Christian bookstore. A lot of the money I earned there went right back to the store because they offered a 35% employee discount on books & music.
One of the bands I loved was Caedmon’s Call. In 1999, they released 40 Acres and followed it up the next year with Long Line of Leavers, and again with the “God of Wonders” song collab with Third Day on the City On A Hill compilation album.
Reader, they were on a helluva hot streak.
Like lots of my fellow geriatric millennials (aka Geri Mills), CCM songs like those Caedmon’s produced are part of the soundtrack of my youth. As such, these songs will sometimes crop up unheeded—which is how the song “Shifting Sands” ended up playing in my head this week.
The chorus goes like this:
My faith is like shifting sand Changed by every wave My faith is like shifting sand So I stand on grace
The rest of the verses are an honest depiction of the ebb and flow of doubt and belief, filled with biblical allusions and a hefty dose of evangelical low self-worth.
But this decades-old earworm got me thinking about the metaphor that underlies the song from the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. Jesus says that those who heed his words are like wise men who build their house on the rock, and those who are foolish and do not are like people who build upon sand.
These metaphors—building, houses, foundations, etc—dovetail nicely with the concept of “deconstruction.” One can imagine the deconstruction of a house. But when I think of “shifting sand,” the images this song conjures make me think of walking on a beach.
Walking on a beach can be treacherous. Each step can be uncertain, the terrain tumbling and rearranging itself under your feet. Finding your footing isn’t easy.
That’s how I feel right now—not necessarily with regard to matters of faith, but with the patterns of daily life.
As I’ve mentioned time and again in various posts over the spring and summer, my family has faced some challenges offline. Things have become more stable, but it has taken time to acclimate back to stability, to trust that the ground underneath won’t shift again. That’s why I’m drawn to this metaphor of “finding your footing” right now.
The “house built on the rock” is a bedrock metaphor for so many Christians (and still rolling around in the brains and bodies of former Christians, too), but so is “walking the straight and narrow.” And it’s the more bodily metaphor of walking that feels apt.
If you are able-bodied, you take walking for granted. When your ability to walk is suddenly impaired and you cannot walk steadily, all those things you took for granted become much more difficult. Whether it is the ground that shifts or your ability to walk on it, the unsteadiness is disorienting.
Sometimes you have to steady yourself before you can put one foot in front of the other again.
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When I posted about it on Threads (yes, I’m there), I followed it up with a decidedly more NSFW but also decidedly more positive song by Janelle Monae.
I swear, this post is proof that this is one of the few universes in which I did not become a pastor.