My senses are alert to water! It is summer, the season where I always imagine that refreshment is coming. Ocean, lakes, rivers beckon me to immersion, nourishment and respite.
Yet, my soul is aware of its own dryness. Maybe it is mirroring the California environment, drought plagued, with wistful longings for El Nino and desalinization projects. Or it may be reflecting the Church in its seemingly endless fights and posturing for power. And what could be more arid than the hue and cry about the premature race for the presidential election next year, in which we cannot trust a word or a character than comes splashing out of the next news cycle? I long for clear fresh water that cleanses, satisfies, and hydrates my spirit.
I have been calling on spiritual images from sacred text and song to give me hope and to dwell in the part of the Mystery that slakes my thirst. I remember my friend at the well in John 4, whose dessicated habits separated her from neighbor and from herself. Yet she got herself to that watering place that noon, and met One who embedded in her “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4: 14). In that spring which he gave her, she met the Holy and she met herself.
So I am trying to notice where the Living Water is located for me in this summer season.
I am finding it in a usual watering hole of reading, primarily sacred reading. Right now I am reading slowly in four different strands of faith: a book of theology on perichoresis by long-time friend of my youth, Dr. Charles Twombly–which prods the ancient boulders of my seminary study into letting trickles of awareness through; a book on Church History about the Beguines, a lay movement of women in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, whose story enriches the encouragement I see in 21st Century women all around the world; a book on gratitude by a Mennonite woman in the South with six children who is seeking to live more thankfully; and, possibly most close to my own drying up in aging, a book of reflections by Marilyn Chandler McIntyre, written as if she were a person of faith who had been given a brief amount of time to live. Each of these streams bathes my spirit, delights or challenges, and refreshes my fevered brow.
I find living water from writers and speakers who speak good news to the broken places, to the misinformation that teems around the communication channels. Just this morning I read a cleansing word from someone who had been mightily betrayed by his colleagues who spoke with clarity and graciousness and peace, and another who brought a perspective of gospel to a new flash that the clamoring twitters had missed altogether. Healing streams indeed!
I am also allowing non-verbal springs to replenish my dryness. The iris, the butterflies and the humming birds are like little rivulets of God’s grace through my window. The harmonies of contemporary composers like Stephen Paulus, Arvo Part and Eric Whitacre ripple with waves of hope and faith that fill the parched places in my soul. Paintings–old and new–spark both my remembrance of the faithfulness of the Holy One, while at the same time they cast a vision of what could be, of what is promised.
And I am finding that the my own practice of offering Presence in the lives of those who are suffering keeps my own heart juices flowing. E-mails, snail-mail cards, phone calls, monetary contributions which I send, all remind me that there is Living Water to be received and recycled to others, despite my felt creakiness and aridity. Just showing up in those ways sends my roots rain, as T.S. Eliot prayed.
My summer pump can be primed by flowing Grace if it is trusted and used. This morning these words came to me from The Wisdom of Ben Sirach, a non-canonical pre-Christian source of ethical sayings, speaking of the Holy One:
As a mother shall she meet him…/with the Bread of Understanding shall she feed him,/ And give him the Water of Wisdom to drink. (15-2-3)
May I find that water for my soul and for our world!