Rising Leader Series: Week 8 - Healing Waters
Song for February. Listen => Footsteps (on finding Holy Spirit in nature)
To the well went woman fallen, filthy
Shackled, beaten down by the weight of sin
Shamed, she knew certain she wasn’t worthy
Shunned, she boxed alone her shadows within
But Jesus came and saw the good within her
With love he sat, heard, dignified her worth
Then offered Spirit gift of living water,
to baptize her into a second birth
To this day Christ Jesus comes in Spirit
He meets us where we are, then makes us whole
He only asks a speck’s first thought to seek Him;
with that His healing waters quench our souls
Spirit God, come shower my parched soul new!
And then, pray, show– how to love more like You?
Goodness and depth are intertwined. As long as we just swim on the surface, we will remain oblivious to the hidden motivations that impact our behavior– let alone the unresolved hurts and longings from which those motivations spring. To discover these, we need to dive into the depths, towards the bottom of the seas of our souls. Only then might we come upon pearls of wisdom hidden in the sand.
In my letters to you over the past two weeks, I have reflected upon the Holy Spirit, as experienced in the symbols of fire and wind. In fire, the Holy Spirit lights our path, warms our hearts and inspires our love. In wind, the Holy Spirit blows change through our souls, whispers guidance in our ears and breathes into our lungs the breath of everlasting life. Today, let’s turn to a third symbol of the Holy Spirit: water.
Notice that these symbols are all metaphorical– all tactile. Fire warms us, ignites us. Wind cools us, awakens us. Water quenches us, cleanses us, refreshes us. It feels to me that there’s something important here. When we begin to experience God in tactile ways– feeling the fire, sensing the breath of a whisper in our ears, immersing in the waters of His cleansing love– we reconnect with our aliveness. The lock on the gate of the soul clicks open.
I remember an experience in my mid-twenties. One week in early August, I joined up with five friends for a four-day canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, well north of Toronto, Canada. We were all in similar situations, still finding our ways early in our careers. Underneath the surface, though, I was in turmoil. Still wounded by my mother’s suicide when eight years old, I struggled with intense unresolved emotions. I had become an atheist in late high school (no loving God would allow mothers to take their own lives), and had carried that conviction through college. Shortly after graduation, after a knocked-to-the-ground encounter with a lightning strike, the first flicker of doubt had crept in, challenging my atheism. As I began this canoe trip, I still hovered in a no man’s land between unbelief and belief.
For four days, with weather as our friend, we paddled and portaged from lake to lake following our map’s scribbled path– a long, winding oval. Water was all around us, even when we camped. We drank from the lake. We swam. As we paddled, our paddle strokes mingled with the songs of nature– the splash of a fish, the twittering of birds, the wind in the trees when close to shore, and, once, the short-interval grunts of a moose unhappy with our presence. It was peaceful.
On our final day we started early, but by the time we completed the portage and shoved from shore on our last leg towards the outfitter’s cabin where our cars were parked, the sun was riding low on the horizon. Five days in the woods had tuned our bodies to the physical. The lake was long, the night was warm, the water was glass. All was still; my heartbeat slowed. Our three canoes all fell into a synchronicity: ripple, ripple, ripple went our paddles, joined in perfect cadence. As the sun tumbled from gold to bronze to crimson against the treeline, as the water began to shimmer a thousand rubies and yellow diamonds, my shut soul creaked open. I began to sense a connection to something deep and eternal– something spiritual– something that felt a lot like love.
The change in me was not instant. My journey back to God was a winding one, taking years. In a sense I’m still on that journey, even to this day. But gliding along the waters of Algonquin Park that silent night, I first sensed the Holy Spirit, though I wouldn’t have been able to name Him at the time– healing me, quenching in me a thirst I hadn’t even known I had. He wanted me to know my mother was OK, and that I was loved. It wasn’t long after that trip that, for the first time in years, I walked back into a church.
What I mean to say is this: we don’t find God through some rational, intellectual exercise. It is an experiential encounter. It’s tactile, metaphorical, mystical. This can be difficult for leaders, so conditioned to the rational, the analytical, the quantifiable. But God’s first touch is on our hearts. Reborn into original goodness, we become more capable of sharing that goodness with others. And so we go back into the world. We find companions, we paddle along together, until suddenly there comes that magical moment when we ourselves are called to share with another the living water of our tears. By this path we become ushers for the Holy Spirit.
We can only find our center point and become more wholly present to others if we first confront our own hurts, regrets, longings, sinful patterns, hopes and fears. Will you welcome the Holy Spirit in, so He may shower you in the waters of rebirth?
For the past three weeks, we have encountered the Holy Spirit in fire, wind and water. Next week, we will find Him in oil.
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”-- Romans 5:5
Wishing you much inspiration!
Previous Weeks' Letters: