When we moved to Newport, Oregon in the 1980’s we were impressed with the beauty of the Oregon coastline. For 363 miles this coastline exposes a raw beauty that resembles Big Sur without the crowds. Thanks to the 1967 Oregon Beach Bill the entire length of the Oregon coast is open to the public and free for all to enjoy.
Our home on San Bay-O Circle was only a few blocks away from the beach. Each morning I would go down to the beach to walk and pray. If my walk coincided with a low tide, I could walk all the way to the Newport bay front, past Mo’s chowder shop, and then up the hill and back through town to our home. I loved walking on the beach early in the morning. Most of the locals and tourists were still rising and many times I would have the beach all to myself.
When we arrived in Newport, I heard a word used that I had not heard before - slough. It is pronounced in the same way as the words “rough” or “tough”, it means a geological slippage. As a kid growing up I would hear older people describe a lazy person as someone who “sloughed off their responsibilities.” Frankly, until I came to the Oregon coast, I thought it only meant lazy people.
One night after a very violent and wet coastal storm, the local newscaster said, “Be careful walking along the cliffs today – because of the storm and rain we anticipate some cliffs will slough.” My newfound use of this word meant that when a cliff became super-saturated with moisture it could give way and cause an unsuspecting person to fall, along with the slipping soil, to the rocks below. After that news cast, I was suspicious of a cliff that was made of soil – especially after the passage of a storm.
Driving up and down the Oregon coast you will notice beautiful lighthouses. Names like Cape Meares, Heceta, Yaquina and Cape Blanco have become famous for their structure and surrounding geography. These lighthouses are not built upon soil, but upon solid rock outcroppings that emerged over time. These outcroppings have become known as “headlands” because they stick out from the surrounding coastline like a head sticks out from a human body.
After thousands of years of sloughing cliffs, what is now revealed are the headlands of solid rock once hidden beneath the soft coastal topsoil. It would be upon these exposed rock headlands that lighthouses and other structures would be built without the fear of their being washed away in some future storm.
In the lives of many people, these last few years have been a time of sloughing. In some cases personal finances have sloughed. So have some relationships and ministries. Things that were once thought to be solid and immovable have fallen away under people’s feet. When things began to give way, insecurity crept in making some feel that God had turned His back on them. The opposite is true. Some have stood and rebuked the storms, but I am thinking God gave the storms permission to come. Lately, I have seen Him use these cultural and spiritual storms, and their subsequent sloughing effect, to reveal the true foundation upon which He could build our future.
When these storms visit our lives, the soil we stand upon is tested. When a life-cliff gives way, and a believer seems to be falling, they fall, not to their death on the rocks below, but down upon the solid and everlasting presence of God – upon the Rock Himself. It is from this place that we begin to rebuild those things that will endure into eternity.