Thursday, November 1, 2018

"So like still water..."

"bring the wind and bring the thunder

bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake
let me always be wide open,
wide open like a lake..."

Sometimes, on a day like today -- raindrops streaming down the sides of the birdfeeder outside the kitchen window like giant tears falling from heavy gray clouds, the bare black branches of still leafless trees reaching out with dark knuckled fingers, pointing to an empty heaven...on a day like this, there is no time or space for me.  In an instant, I find myself on a tender journey back to an early spring morning over three decades ago, and I am as empty as a discarded barn swallow's nest.

It is in the sanctuary of this space that Steven Curtis Chapman's "Be Still," reminds me that, as Kahlil Gibran wrote:

"The deeper sorrow carves into our being,
the more joy we can contain."

That spring, the son we were in the process of adopting had been taken back by his birthmother, relationships seemed shattered, my body was riddled with pain, I'd given up my career to be a full-time mother, and we lived in a remote summer community that was practically empty until June. 

As I sat on the sofa in the living room, looking out at the lake our property sloped down to, I wondered why my body still had the ability to function and move.  I moved my fingers and was surprised to see them express life.  I felt absolutely empty and lifeless within, and I wished something would hurry up and put me out of my misery. 

I'd called a friend, who was also my teacher in Christian Science, the night before and told him that I didn't know why I was still alive.  He had chuckled kindly, and suggested that I sit quietly and listen for God's desire in my life -- since, as he reminded me,  I
was still living, so I might as well live with some sense of spiritual reason.  I agreed that this might be a good idea, and promised to give it my whole heart.

And I did.  I sat in the same place, practically in the same position, all night long with my eyes closed just listening and praying.  I heard nothing.  Nothing.  It was an inspiration-free zone.  My thoughts felt as empty as my body and my life. Deteriorating health, all alone, no job, no purpose -- and most devastating, no baby.

Dawn came, and with it the realization that I hadn't heard anything and I was just as empty and in pain as I had been the day before.  I felt exhausted and hopeless.  That was when Winnie, our sweet puppy "daughter," sidled over and nudged my elbow with her nose -- over, and over, and over again.  No matter how many times I suggested she "just go lie down,"  she kept returning.  So, I gave in and pulled on a pair of jeans under my flannel nightgown, a pair of boots over my wool socks, and opened the breezeway door leading out into forest just beyond the brick-paved walkway. 

Winnie was a hunting dog, so her normal path from "here to there" was to weave her way through the brush and bramble -- stopping every few moments to point a squirrel or flush out a bunny.  But this morning she made a b-line for the lake's shoreline.  And once she arrived, her nose was down and her entire attention was focused on whatever was at the water's edge.  And no matter how many times I called to her, she ignored me and kept her complete focus on whatever she saw in the shallow water at the edge of the lake.

I made my way down the hill, reached her side, and got down on my haunches to see what had her attention.  But all I could see was my own face clearly reflected in the still surface of the lake at dawn -- and everything that was just below the surface -- tiny minnows, pebbles, and bits of grass. 

That was when a divine message finally came through, and it came through with such striking clarity that I was knocked back onto my bottom.  "
This is what I want you to be -- as still as this water -- just "like a lake*" -- this lake.  In this stillness you will be able to see what is true within yourself, and anyone who is in your presence will be able to see the truth of who they are in the stillness of your being -- a stillness that only reflects truth and never attracts attention to your ego -- or their's."   

And then, on the heels of that message,  in that very moment, a strong wind picked up and within seconds the entire lake was choppy and disturbed.  And at the water's edge, all was foamy and what lay within, obscured.  I couldn't see my own reflection on the surface, or anything below the surface, for that matter. 

The message continued, "And this is what happens when you allow yourself to be stirred up by emotion, anger, and drama."  The message was as clear and pointed as it could have been.  As Winnie wandered off into the nearby bramble to search for bunnies, I stayed at the water's edge transfixed on the moment, begging for direction.

"But just tell me what you want me to be, and I will be the best "it" there has every been.  If you want me to be a mom send me a child.  If you want me to be a wife, bring my husband home.  If you want me to be a career woman, tell me what job to focus on.  If you want me to be a healer, a poet, a lawyer, a writer, an artist, a publisher, a teacher...just tell me, and I will be it, and I will give it my everything.  Just tell me!"

But God said, "You aren't supposed to be just one thing forever.  You are my All-in-all.  You have all that it takes to be whatever I need you to be at any given moment.  You can be all that you have asked, and more that you can ever even imagine.  Just like the water in the lake -- just as every single drop of water is made up of H2O.  Two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, you, as my reflection, as my child -- my direct heir -- are all that I am.  You have the same elemental balance that I have -- I am Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love to the
infinite degree and measure, so are you.  You are not a portion of my being, but the allness of all that I am."

I was suddenly reminded of a statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy which assures each of us that:
"As a drop of water is one with the ocean,
a ray of light one with the sun,
so God and man, divine Principle and idea,
are one in being."

I got it.  I could be anything God wanted me to be in any moment.  Just as a drop of water could be refreshing, nourishing, cleansing, purifying, buoying, serve as ballast, revive a man thirsting in the desert -- depending on the demands of the moment -- I had all the qualities and attributes as part and parcel of my being in infinite measure, just waiting to be drawn upon.  In a fishbowl a drop of water is the breath of life to a little goldfish. On the tip of your tongue the same drop of water is refreshing, on a child's dirty face it is cleansing, It's individuality and identity are defined by the demands of a moment and the context it finds itself in.  The water doesn't decide to be refreshing, it doesn't get a degree in being cleansing and then is only capable of serving in that capacity.  Any drop of water is able to do any water-like function.

God was telling me that this was true of my identity -- and not only mine, but it was the truth about each of us -- impartially and universally.  We are all identical with God's character and nature.  We don't bring a measured portion of God's allness to each moment as our unique identitiy,  talent base, or skill set.  The moments and opportunites themselves, draw from our infinite individuality what is needed or required of us in any given moment or situation.   And sometimes it is what we least feel we have to give, that we most need to learn about ourselves -- humility, grace, patience, meekness, kindness, non-judgment -- which we find being  called forth.

All I needed to be was still -- not just peaceful, quiet, and motionless, but constant, changeless, and nevertheless. N
evertheless than the allness of God's being in each and every moment.  This never-the-less-ness was the being -- the selfhood and identity -- I would realize as my only purpose and calling.  That was over three decades ago, and I think that I am just starting to "get it".

A friend recently gave me this poem by poet, William Butler Yates, as a blessing...and as a gift:
"We can make our minds
so like still water
that  beings gather about us
that they may see,
it may be,
their own images,
and so live for a moment
with a clearer,
perhaps even with a fiercer life
because of our quiet."

Thank you dear friend...

In stillness, 


*And here are the lyrics to Sara Groves' "Like a Lake" (linked above):

"so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it

when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

standing at this waters edge
looking in at God's own heart
I've no idea where to begin
to swallow up the way things are

everything in me is drawing in
closing in around this pain
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake
wide open like a lake

everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I am fighting to stay open
I am fighting to stay open
open open oh wide open
open like a lake "

[photo credit: Gabe Korinek 2010 all rights reserved]


  1. Anonymous6:40 AM

    Thank you for sharing this again, it is one of my favorites. I have read it several times and the thoughts you shared always give me some hope and courage to not give up. The message you received from God by the side of the lake inspires me.... Thank you xo

  2. Thank you Kate -
    Your writing is gorgeous, full and intimate and its inspiration just targets the heart. Wonderful.

  3. beautiful. blessings to you. xo