Don't you ever just wish you could "get it" once and for all? I do.
This is not the first time I have affirmed keeping God at the Center of my
life. From Lutheran confirmation instruction to Camp Quaker Haven as a teen,
through the pursuit of secular and theological education as an adult, and the
middle of mundane and not so mundane life crises, I have repeatedly resolved
to conquer my fears and know that my refuge is God. However, society's
demands as well as those of jobs, authorities, and even well-meaning and
supportive relationships have often competed for the first fruits of my
energies, skills, and time. Too often these external factors uproot personal
confidence in self, as well as upset a resting hope upon God. One of the
greatest challenges of humankind is surely that of tempering our inflated
sense of power with the balance of nature. As we rush about going here,
going there, meeting demands of work, home, and society, the image of
dolphins who seemed so to be enjoying their journey in the ocean's waters
restores my soul. The image remains with me even on the mainland, as does
the encounter with the inhabitant of the most beautiful shell I have ever yet
(And The Inhabitant's Deferred Adjudication)
Recently as I walked along the seashore, the Water's Edge yielded to my eyes the most beautiful, complete and perfect shell I had ever seen. When I picked it up, I delighted with that human capacity for coveting, thinking finally I have found a complete shell. I often come home from the shore with pieces of shell that were formerly homes for creatures of the sea swept onto land by Nature's power. However a living thing, very alive and moist with the salty presence of the sea looked at me directly. It seemed for an eternal moment we gazed at one another as I stood in the sand holding the living room of its beautiful home in the palm of my hand. I breathed deeply, some of my breath perhaps offending this inhabitant who had approached the boundaries of sea and land, life and death, water and air, in that moment in time. The boundaries of the earth that humans seize from nature, to control and take liberties to dominate and destroy indeed pose a threat to every thing living. The low tide had brought it full of life to these boundaries. The high tide and one small human act of surrender to a Higher Power would take it beyond those boundaries to return to an ocean teeming with life.
While it is one thing to experience spiritual gifts from the sea, it is a further challenge to realize the Breath of God in everyday life in the midst of life's routines. Of crisis proportion in our culture is the separation of the spiritual and the physical. We are taught early in life to defer authority for our health and well being to someone else, as if they know us better than we do ourselves-even if they are a doctor who has not even spent five minutes in our midst before writing on his prescription pad supposedly on our behalf. Few cultures invite physicians to exercise ultimate authority over something as important as our personal health care choices when each of us individually live within the Temple of our Being. The role of physicians, as well as government, must be carefully examined and carefully scrutinized by compassionate individuals, who are hopeful of At-One-Ment and dedicated to nurturing life, rather than destroying it and living species of the planet. We would do well to start with the Golden Rule of respect and participate always in the Sacred Romance, yes loving others, even ourselves and God with our whole heart, soul and mind. Without the right to take care of personal health in the best way one sees fit, it is questionable that our God-given, unalienable Rights --even First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly--are little more than theory.
In the act of calling God Central, the answer often comes from within. Breathe. Breathe, Dear One, the Breath of God, with which you were created. The answers often lie nearer than you think, even within you. This leg of life may be full of pain and so you need some joy for the journey. One of my most memorable expressions of such joy was the opportunity to sing tenor in the Gospel choir at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Though I don't have the music score available to me, the substance of a song we sung there continues to resonate within my heart: Jesus, the Center of my joy, from whom all things good and perfect come, our hope in everything. For many years, God has also spoken to me through this song which S/He gifted to me over time.
Copyright © 2001 by the author
Henri J. M. Nouwen
Lama Surya Das
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