Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Walking on Water

It was a cool rainy day on Monday, so we went to see the new movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” I was hoping for a film about a spiritual quest. What I got was superficial self-indulgence. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if the book is any better, but the movie is as shallow as a wadi in the dry season.

When I wasn’t bored, I wanted to jump up and do some preaching in the theatre. (I am sure that would have gone over big!) At every turn of the film, there were missed opportunities and misdirections. Even the lessons that Liz (the Julia Roberts character) learned during her year of self-discovery were more like fortune cookie wisdom than real truth.

Then yesterday I woke up to a beautiful morning and went out on my porch with my morning cup of tea. There I heard a wisdom much more profound than anything I heard in that theatre. I heard it again in the afternoon when I hiked a mountain and saw the view from the summit. 

I heard it echoing a third time when I knelt for my afternoon time of prayer. What I heard was silence. I thought to myself, “This is it!” This is what that sad woman in the film was searching for in recipes, religion and romance.

In the film the main character was visiting an ashram in India when she was asked what she was looking for. She answered “Peace.” That is what the silence of creation provides – a peace born of silence, which books and films, ashrams and gurus cannot give. There is a silence beneath it all.

It is a powerful silence, always flowing like an aquifer beneath our feet. It is the living water that Jesus shared with the Samaritan woman at the well. This is the goal of all spiritual quests. It is the source of life. It flows in our veins and rings in our ears, strong and clear.

I read recently that a system of huge underground rivers has been discovered beneath the Simpson Desert of the Australian outback. The surface landscape is dry and barren, but one hundred feet below the surface is a system of rivers that covers hundreds of miles. These rivers and streams are the oldest in the world, at least 50 million years old, dating from the late Cretaceous period when the desert was green and wet.

This is the spiritual landscape of today. The religious landscape of our post-modern world is barren and dry, covered with the wrecks of worn-out fundamentalism, tired liberalism, and faddish contemporary spirituality. But beneath our feet is the river of life, the source of creation. It is under the desert landscape of our thoughts and emotions also. All we have to do is dig a well.

The Samaritan woman complained that she was thirsty. The village well was deep and she had no vessel with which to draw water. Jesus replied, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” He said later, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

In other words, he is the source; we are the well. As the prophet Isaiah said, “For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.”
Image is of the Simpson Desert, Australia

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