We saw a lot of water when we were in Vancouver last week. I haven’t seen the ocean for many years and it’s a huge expanse out there – channels, harbors, bays, creeks and rivers. So much water makes for a green and lush landscape, and we basked in it for 4 days. We were blessed with perfect weather, and each time we ventured near water, things were calm and tranquil, even when waves were lapping on the shore.
Transitioning to the pace of a new school year was what lay ahead of me as our plane touched down on Monday night. I began with the usual prayers whispered on my own and the prayers and love of my faith community. Underneath my happiness at seeing students once again were the usual fears, nervousness and worries that I won’t measure up. These unsettling emotions are so predictable to me now that I’m not surprised to see them. They seem like the current under all that water we saw.
The first day with students began well enough and hope bubbled up within me but during the second day, I felt like I was treading water hard. It’s amazing to me how convincing an illusion can seem – that I wouldn’t make it this year, and that all things negative would swallow me. “I’m not cut out for this. How will I do 198 more of these days?”
I consider it a huge blessing and sign of God’s providence that all week God was faithful and gave one reminder after another, nudging me away from the illusion and back on more solid ground. With God the loving parent and I the distracted child, I kept being redirected.
The first healing nudge came from our Wednesday night discussion. In a discussion about C.S. Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain, a woman in the video talked about her son’s battle with cancer and her own deep struggle. Some people allow their battles to make them cynical, but she only became more convinced of God’s abiding friendship. When difficulties come, we may think God is cruel, but she said, “Whoever we think God is, God is always more than what we think. God is Mystery.”
This is what Lewis believed as well. At the end of his book The Great Divorce, the immortal souls of all the world’s people are watching over the tiny chess pieces of their lives on earth. I remembered this image as I was temporarily adrift in my ocean of swampy feelings. It was a shift in perspective, helping me remember that God is the immortal part of me, and is much larger than what I usually imagine. “Whatever I’m feeling,” I mused, “it is not so huge that God is not much much bigger and able to sustain me.”
A verse on a bookmark I’d bought in B.C. came to mind – “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) As I prayed, I remembered this verse. There are no swirling waters of doubt when we are still enough to become aware of the God who is always there. It is my hope for this year and always.
Calm returned the next day and with it the awareness that I was more in the center of this stillness, and in the heart of God all along. It is amazing to me what a difference a change in perspective can make. When God readjusts my brain yet again and reminds me that Love is greater than all, a love for my students bubbles up once more. No challenge is too difficult and no waters seem too deep or swift. A bounce in my step returned.
I thought that my doubts were the current under the water, but I was wrong. It’s God, deeper than anything my over-active imagination can throw at me. Or maybe God is like an anchor amid all the human swirling. Like Josh Garrels sings in the song Bread and Wine,
“I was wrong. Everybody needs someone to hold on.”
My prayer for the year will be to hold on to the anchor of Psalm 46:10, and I wish that for everyone reading today.