The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples
God’s Gonna Trouble the Water | January 31, 2021 Message from Dr. Benton
God’s gonna trouble the water…the water of our existence. And when God troubles the water, we are in for some healing…we are in for an encounter with the divine. Howard Thurman says that the troubling of the waters is not a punishment from God, but rather a “radical interruption of one’s normal processes”. And we sure need that right now. It’s been that kind of a week for me. The storm that brought water and for me a power outage that lasted a day and a half…was that a troubling of the water? Was that a sign from the divine…a sign from our mother…the earth…our home? As one of my clients stated, “it is a sign from God that we need to take notice”…take notice of our opportunities for healing and transformation at each step of the way…whether we are encountering the children dressed in white, in black, in blue, in red, in green…whether we are struggling with issues of systemic racism, global warming, hopelessness and poverty…both material poverty and the poverty of spirit. No matter where we find ourselves…what task the spirit of life has placed in our path, water will be a very important ally in taking on that task. Water, perhaps the most important substance for our existence, the environment of our first 9 months in the womb…the “substance” of our bodies…water moves in the empty spaces…filling them with its healing presence.
I thought about water when I heard this poem from Rainer Maria Rilke, Austrian-Czech poet/mystic.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
But I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
And I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song.
This poem, written between 1899 and 1903…about the time of the birth of my grandparents has been in the background of my life ever since I first read it. I come back to it in times of distress…in times when I begin to question the trajectory of my life…in times when so much does not make sense…in the times when the old paradigms are no longer functioning…when I need a broader perspective.
I heard from a client this week whose young son tried to commit suicide. The parent’s grief was unbounded. The terror of the situation was so close and present…so intimate. I was unable to separate myself from it, at least momentarily, while I listened to him. The sheer horror of this parent’s experience reminded me of another poem by Rilke…
You, God, Who live next door— If at times, through the long night, I trouble you with my urgent knocking— this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom. I know you’re all alone in that room. If you should be thirsty, there’s no one to get you a glass of water. I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign! I’m right here. As it happens, the wall between us is very thin. Why wouldn’t a cry from one of us break it down? It would crumble easily, it would barely make a sound.
We are indeed so close, if we think about it…the wall between us IS very thin…the wall between the all-pervading presence and each of us…the wall between each of us…both human and non-human beings. And if the wall is so thin, then we must remember in times of “trouble”…in times when we feel most alone and abandoned…exactly there is where the spirit of life performs its work. As Thurman says, this is where ”the creative mind and spirit at the core of the universe is at work”, and that “there is at the heart of life a Heart”…the same heart that is breathing in the next room…the same Heart that is available to a desperate child feeling abandoned by life. It is this Heart…this love, that is present in the water…in the water of life and as Thurman says, the knowledge of this love creates “a vast and awe-inspiring tranquility irradiates life”. This tranquility is what I sense in this song by Sweet Honey In the Rock. I offer it here to my client and his family and to all those suffering amid the storms of life.
I be your shelter…I be your everything…I be your water. It is the water of life that is contained in everything that is alive. It has the power to connect us to all living things…from the tiny virus that is causing so much suffering…so much separation to the vaccination that brings us some hope that we will once again be able to gather in community…from the smallest seed to the tallest tree brought down in the recent storm. All are connected through this healing energy…the water of life.
Julian of Norwich, an anchorite and first woman to write a book in English lived in the thirteen hundreds during the time of the bubonic plague pandemic, when it is estimated that 1 in 3 people died. She wrote the following in her book of “Showings”.
God showed me in my palm a little thing round as a ball about the size of a hazelnut. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and asked myself: “What is this thing?” And I was answered: “It is everything that is created.” I wondered how it could survive, since it seemed so little it could suddenly disintegrate into nothing. The answer came: “It endures and ever will endure, because God loves it.” And so everything has being because of God’s love.
Julian had a sturdy confidence in life. Amid a time when so many were dying from a terrifying illness, she spoke about being “well”…about trusting in the love of God and the essence of the divine which infiltrates all. May we move forward with this confidence. May we grow in our awareness of our cosmic companionship with the all-pervading presence of the universe…with the one who moves so quietly through our house…our life. May we understand that within the smallest seed…the smallest molecule of existence is the essence of the divine…the balm for our most distressing moments. The balm that reassures us that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate…that there is the hope of a tree, that when cut down will sprout again. May we experience the healing and the hope of this beautiful spiritual to inspire each of us to be healing agents in each of our experiences. Like the water that flows freely, filling up the cracks and crevices in a landscape, may God’s love fill the holes and ruptures in our own spirits. Amen