Trouble the Waters

I can relate to whoever said, “I wonder as I wander.”  These words that originated in Appalachia resound with me because I tend to do a lot of both and usually at the same time.  At any given moment, my mind is awash with musings and questions and in a place like this (Roslyn Retreat Center Richmond, VA), one can get rather contemplative.

I wonder if Meister Eckhart, Therese of Liseux, Thomas Merton and the like had sudden blazes of revelation – breakthroughs that stayed with them for the duration of their lives.  There are stories of ecstatic visions, but most are balanced with accounts of traveling aimlessly through the dark night of the soul – their hands outstretched in front of them to feel their way along in the shadows lest they injure themselves on a rock or tree.  This seems to be where most of us find ourselves at one time or another.

My guess is that these mystics existed in a place somewhere in between these extremes, much like the place where we tend to exist.  To have a constant view of the sacred would be overwhelming.  It’s less about these mystics being especially chosen to receive the light as it is about their ability to wait.  In the waiting and watching they developed eyes to see that which was always there.  The long periods of contemplation gave them occasional glimpses of the Divine that would fade, but serve as a constant reminder that there really was something holding us together.

Most of us don’t have the luxury or the mindset to remain in a state of introspection for long periods of time.  Instead, we seem to be constantly wading through troubled waters trying to get to some place that we don’t even know.

Maybe this is a blessing.  Surely we don’t see it this way.  But who can really bear to look upon something so beautiful for any period of time without going blind?

During our retreat today, we sang the old spiritual, Wade in the Water.  As the melody washed over me and the words crossed my lips, it served as a timely reminder.  It was a prompting that we don’t have to be ashamed when we feel like we are a wreck.  We don’t have to be afraid just because we don’t know what’s on the other side of the river.

Come to your own river with wonder and hope.

Stand there on the muddy shore.  Let the wet loamy sand rise between your toes as you sink into it.  Lift your foot and take that step into the cold water as it swirls around your legs.  Don’t worry, you’ll keep your balance.  You won’t get swept away.

The place where you step stirs up the silt at the bottom and clouds form above your feet.  Wait.  Watch.  What’s left when the cloud dissipates and the silt settles?  Your One and Truest Self.

Nothing is born from the water unless it is troubled first.  And so it is with you and with me.  Amen.

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