October 2012

All at Sea

Every day we are made promises. Advertisers promise us cheap peace, translating our wants into needs. A trouble-free existence is ours, for a price, and the price can always be paid ‘later’. Sometimes preachers, too, promise serenity without strife, tranquillity without turmoil, resurrection without gethsemane or calvary.

Jesus said there is no life except through death. As one mystic put it, the Spirit of God and our own spirits strive together in a storm of love. In this ‘storm of love’ each spirit is deeply wounded by love. Unfortunately Gethsemane is not a detour. It has been suggested that the sin of Adam and Eve was to try to get knowledge without working for it, to ‘arrive’ without the pain of the journey, to attain ‘instant godliness’.

As the 13C Flemish mystic John Ruysbroeck said ‘God is a sea’. The sea, for the ancient Hebrews, was a turbulent place where danger lurked. (So the Jews did not make good sailors; they left that to the Phoenicians.) Deliverance from the Red Sea was a recurring theme for wonder-full recollection.
It is in this sea of life, with its ebbs and flows, where we meet God; sometimes calm, sometimes a fearful place.

While on holiday I have been know to lie on a beach for hours on end. I enjoy the peace and lack of responsibility. But after a few days, even if I’m reading a really good book, I become unsettled. Perhaps its boredom, but it isn’t long before I have to visit a nearby village, or castle or whatever, to experience something new. If all of life was as calm as the initial part of my holiday, there would be nothing and no one disturbing me. But life has its storms, sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed. The objects of earthly love eventually disappoint or die, so the more we love, the more risks we take.

In our journey of life, sometimes through uncharted, unfamiliar seas, perhaps the following text can encourage us: ‘When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you... for I am the Lord your God, who saves you’ (Isaiah 43:2-3).

October 2012