In her book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has this quote, “But I was always coming here. I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems, which says that God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen. ”
There have been a few times in my life when I felt very strongly that I was standing in my very own circle of sand, being where I was meant to be and believing that I would be there forever. Then, the wind would begin to blow across my life, picking up the sand and redistributing it. The result was that my circle in the sand would fade away, and I would become lost, not knowing where I was or where I should be, at least for awhile.
Four years ago I found myself in a situation where I was standing in a vast desert of sand, without a circle to surround me or define me, or a horizon to guide me. I had lost my sense of home, and the future looked very bleak from where I was standing in the desert, with the hot, dry winds of fear, doubt, and failure swirling around me. I didn’t know where to go, or where I belonged. I was physically and emotionally homeless. Thank God, I was not spiritually homeless, even though at times I felt as if I were.
It turns out that I wasn’t alone or homeless, at all. God was in the wind that blew; God was the wind that found me wandering in my personal desert, promised to deliver me, and led me to Monroe, Georgia. With the help of my family and some very special friends sent my way by God, I was lifted from the violent sandstorm that raged around me and engulfed me, and was gently set down on a quiet street in Monroe, where the storms of my life settled down, and God once more drew a circle in the sand for me, and caressed me with gentle, healing breezes.
I can identify with Elizabeth Gilbert’s feeling. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought Monroe might be a nice place to live, I probably would have given you a blank expression of “Where?” written all over my face. Monroe was not a city in Georgia that I yearned to live in, nor was it even a spot on a mental road map of favorable Georgia towns. But here I am! And I can clearly see the circle drawn in the sand where I am standing. I feel as if I belong here, that Monroe was waiting for me to arrive, and that I really had no say in the matter, after all.
I have found sanctuary here. My little apartment is my nest and safe place, where I can pray and meditate, write and dream, laugh, sing, dance, and cry. The sidewalks of Monroe have become my friends as Sunshine and I walk them daily, observing the changes from day to day and season to season along our path. My neighbors have my back, as I have theirs in my little community of apartment homes. People wave to me from their cars as they pass when I am out walking or sitting on my front porch, and speak to me on the sidewalks or from their porches as we stroll through town. The owner of my favorite restaurant knows me by name and gives me a hug whenever I go there for a meal. Monroe police are a visible reminder as they patrol the town that I am protected from danger here. My newfound friends in a weekly Bible study are my new prayer warriors, as my spiritual life is enriched and expanded with each day.
God, indeed, has drawn a new circle in the sand for me, and even though it was through some very unfortunate events in my life that sent me here, this is the place where I am supposed to be. I was never meant not to be here. I pray that my breezes will be gentle and light, and that my circle won’t shift for a long, long time.
Monroe, Georgia. Who’d have thought?
I am home.