The bright white building outlined in red hasn’t changed in 40 years. I could see it from my beachfront hotel room. Even though it was a couple of miles down the beach, I could easily recognize that red cross on the side of that building. That cross is internationally known to symbolize help and by proxy, hope. I knew that building well, I sought it often as a towheaded kid who clearly was born with an unadulterated love for the ocean.
We often hung around the lifeguard/Red Cross building as young kids. Having saved every penny from the week’s odd jobs, we jumped on a city bus with little more than our swim suits and maybe an extra t-shirt. When we weren’t in the ocean or playing on the sand dunes (oops), we were hanging around that bright white building with the cross painted on the side. We played for hours on the boardwalk, enjoyed the food vendors and street performers. Nobody really knew where we were, nor did they care, so we’d often stay until the last bus picked us up to take that long trip “home”. The buses were always colder than they needed to be and often elicited chill bumps on our sun kissed skin.
I stood somewhat paralyzed on that same beach a few weeks ago and those memories flooded my mind and overtook my senses. For a minute, I was that towheaded kid again. The ocean was turbulent that day as a storm off the coast of Jacksonville decided to hang out for a bit. The waves crashed into the earth’s crust with an angry energy that I understood. I decided to walk towards that white building, the one that signified help and hope. I scanned the ground for shells or rocks. My phone was shuffling some pretty amazing songs and it turned into a sweet JAM (Jesus And Me) session that I will never forget.
I was in Jacksonville for reasons that were far from fun. And I was telling Jesus about it. Come Thou Fount shuffled on my phone and just like every other time I hear that song, I was intrigued about a single lyric.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer hither by thy help I come…”
Because this part of the song ALWAYS stops me in my tracks, I knew the story behind “Ebenezer” and on this day, I wanted to raise an Ebenezer. The word, in the original text, means “stone of help”. I turned the stone around between my fingers, I didn’t remember picking it up, Jesus and I were having a talk.
I continued towards the Red Cross building. I can’t be sure if the memories drew me there or the symbolism of that building drew me there. Either way I was on a mission to get there. I replayed that song and listened intensely to that lyric. I knelt down and wrote “Victory” in the sand with my rock, and then took a picture of my Ebenezer.
I was determined to leave some things on the beach that day. I needed to leave some things on the beach that day. And so I raised my Ebenezer and thanked God for the victory that He has given me over armies of darkness, groups of traumas and multiple health issues. God, in His kindness and sovreignity, healed my brain enough for me to face, fight and win battles and wars.
Trauma is stubborn, it is greedy, and it will, left unchecked, absolutely destroy it’s tenant. I fully understand what a miracle my life is. I wanted to leave my mom on the beach that day. I thought of her a lot on that JAM walk. I remembered seeing a picture of mom and my sister Libby sitting somewhere where I was walking. I wanted to leave John on that beach that day. I had so many memories with him out there. Those memories reminded me that he wasn’t all bad and neither was my marriage. And so I kept walking, and the building of help and hope got closer and so did real hope as I just begged Jesus to take all of those things from my heart and from my mind and truly give me victory. I begged Him to help me. I had been trying to wish my trauma away. Trauma doesn’t go away because we want it to leave. And the body keeps the score.
And that is why I was in Jacksonville in the first place. My body has kept impeccable score over the years.
By the time I made it to the Red Cross building, quiet tears dripped and I remembered that little kid escaping the pain of life, running on the boardwalk, and hanging around that bright white building with the cross on the side. On this day that grown up little girl was walking on the beach in search of some help and hope. That bright cross stared back at me and I wanted to kneel in front of it and lay it all down there, because it had ceased to be the symbol of the American Red Cross and reminded me of that wooden cross where they killed my Jesus. He gave His life for me, so that I could have victories like I was having at that moment. On my way back, I realized I never picked up my Ebenezer after I took the picture. I fully expected the ocean to have devoured it, and that would have been kind of perfect, actually. A new song shuffled on my phone, this time another lyric forced more water from my eyes.