Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The waterline

A conversation with a friend reminded me of what I'd intended to write here today.  We were talking about the desert we're both in these days.  Some seasons are like that, we reminded each other.  And we've had the unique pleasure of His company more often than not in these long lives of faith we're each living.  The inexpressible joy of His presence--beyond all that we could ask or imagine.  And I think it's perhaps also true that we thought that way of living with that Sacred Presence was the norm of this pilgrimage we're all on.  And, speaking for myself, probably something I took for granted more often than I'd like to admit, certainly more often than I wish, thinking about it from here, from this Sacred Absence, I suppose one might say.  It was a good conversation with my friend.  She cried a little speaking of it. She's more of a crier than I am even at the best of times but I told her I don't have many tears these days, it's like this desert has dehydrated me.  There aren't tears to squeeze out.  But the conversation lightened each of us, I think.  It reminded us that we aren't alone in this place.

But I was also reminded of something I'd intended to write this morning, before the day and life got away from me.  I was thinking about the green, fiber-glass canoe my dad built in our garage one year.  I really loved that canoe,  loved the way it was so smooth and quiet across the water, loved how my oar felt in my hands as I dipped and pulled it, and, with barely a ripple, could turn the canoe, even if I was alone in it.  We launched it first at Spring Valley Reservoir, where we'd taken a picnic lunch to enjoy while each of us had a turn.  We swam in the shallow water, and paddled out deeper.  I became a proficient canoe-ist over the course of that canoe's life.

And that proficiency enabled me to participate in a long canoe trip one summer at the same camp where I first met Jesus.  We canoed up the Coeur de' Alene River.  And I remember one very specific moment on this several day trip--a certain bridge that looked mighty high to me from beneath it.  We stowed our canoes, climbed the bank, then up onto the bridge, and one by one, jumped into the river.  Now I was a good swimmer, always was.  But that bridge was higher than any high dive I'd ever jumped off of, and that water darker than any pool I'd ever dove into, and believe me, I was a bit daunted.  I'd felt safe and secure when I was paddling above the water's surface, skimming the waterline, so to speak.  But I climbed over the barrier when it came my turn for one reason, and one reason only.

In our group was a teenaged boy whose name was Dallas, and he was blind.  Up on that bridge that sunny August day, Dallas had no hesitation.  Sure, you might say, it was easier--he didn't know how far below the water was, or how deep gravity would take him.  But I didn't think of that, that day.  I only saw that this boy, who couldn't see where he was going, had faith that he'd be okay, that this adventure would be fun.  Worth the doing.  Even if he dropped deep beneath the waterline all the way to the bottom.  So he jumped.  And he fell deep.  Really deep, I can tell you.  Two counselors were waiting to help him find the shore.  But a minute later, those two counselors were still there to help me find the shore when I jumped.  Because I did.

Hitting the water was hard, and I remember how gravity propelled me downward.  I remember how dark and cool it was beneath the surface.  How silent it was.  But there was light above, and, almost instantly, arms to pull me, clap for my accomplishment, to point the way back to my safe little canoe.

And what occured to me when I was thinking about this earlier, and again, talking to my friend, is that there may be silence beneath the waterline, but that's where real work happens.  So much more of God is beneath the waterline of our lives, beneath the surface where we live and work and laugh and cry.  It may be dark, may feel even lonely, but there He is, in the silence, in the depths, still reaching out to show us the way.

I liked being above the waterline, in a gently moving canoe, I really did.  But what has stayed with me is what it felt like to plummet the depths. I don't want to live my life above the water line, only skimming the surface, content when it's easy, when He's paddling with me--present with me.  I want to dive to the depths, learn what His depths have for me.  Even if it seems silent.

(PS.  You can now go to October Afternoon simply by clicking on the photo of the Palouse--the one labeled October Afternoon.  I posted a new chapter earlier. I guess I'm really doing this...)

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