Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Like Pebbles Into the Deep


I read this today in How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin:
“The conversion moment in us is when we see from a new perspective,” Sister Anne said.  “Sometimes all we can see is that this is not working for us anymore.  That is all you can see, until you are ready to see from that new perspective.”  Everything she asked me to do that week was about perspective.  To walk along the shore and pick up small rocks, allowing them to become stand-ins for all my troubles – and then fling them into the expanse of the ocean.  As I did, I grasped their smallness; I heard the small plunk against the backdrop of the roar of the waves. (p 81).
I really like this.  I love the imagery.  I love that Sister Anne’s instructions expand beyond sheer will power and positive thinking to include hands and feet.  This is not to minimize or demean the life of the mind.  It’s just to say that we aren't brains without bodies or bodies without brains.  I can't think my way out of my troubles.  I can, however, take a pebble and throw it into the sea.  And maybe the mind follows.

"But sins and troubles are not pebbles" says Mike's brain.  "They are not a thing that you simply discard like an old newspaper".  

True enough.  And yet...

Walk along the beach.  Feel the sand in between your toes.  Is it cool or hot?  Breathe deep and smell the salt of the ocean until you can almost taste it.  Hear the sound of the waves.  See a small stone and pick it up.  Roll it around in your fingers. Close your eyes and envision this small stone as a sacrament of your troubles.  Recognize that this little piece of trouble is not you.  It does not define you.  Look up and out into the ocean. Take that small stone and throw it into the watery abyss.  Feel it leave your hand.  Watch it sail into the deep expanse of the ocean.

Imagine this expanse as the love of God. Watch that tiny sacrament of your troubles drown in the depths of this love.  Do you believe?  Imagine all that fear and suffering, all my failures, my will to be less than that to which I'm called, all of it swallowed up.  Death where is your victory?!  Do you believe?  The worst sins of humanity, all things resurrected to the goodness from which they came, redeemed in the depths of this fierce and inexorable tranquility.  Oh my soul, do you believe?


In the words of St. Isaac the Syrian:

“As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God.”

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