How God is like water…
I have been on this adventure with God, water, and the bible for 50 days now. I have learned a lot about myself, God, and the role water plays in the bible. There are days when I yearn for the familiarity and “comfortable” territory of the new testament and the living water I will find there. I think if I were to go there now it would be a bit like the Israelites returning to Egypt. I think God has a plan for my “sojourn in the sand” of the old testament and I am willing to trust Him, but I am feeling a bit “dry” and “parched”, so I thought it would be good to take a short break from my journey and reflect on water and God for today’s post.
Water is an amazing substance it has properties like nothing else in the universe. I guess in that way God is a lot like water. Water is the substance that allows life to exist on earth. Water possesses the amazing property that it will fill the shape of the container it is placed in. Water can be present in three states at once, just like the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Water can kill you, but it is also necessary to keep us alive.
Liquid water takes many forms. For example, as I was walking down to the park one day in Houghton, MI to spend some time with God reflecting on water and God it began to rain, lightly at first but then hard enough that I started to think about running to the shelter at the park. Part of me was a little annoyed and unhappy that I was getting wet, but then I realized that I was unhappy because God was bringing this rain and making me wet — what was I missing? Why would God send this annoying rain? As I thought about it I realized that maybe the water and rain were not meant for me, maybe the water was for the plants and the birds that I was walking by and I was just “along for the ride”. God is like a light rain. We hear the pitter patter of his presence on the roof, in the trees, and sometimes on our heads. We can choose to be annoyed by God’s rain or we can embrace the rain. So next time it rains, figuratively or otherwise, perhaps it is not intended for us and there is a reason for the rain that we cannot see.
Water takes many forms, and these forms affect the way we experience it. This is true of God as well. The form God takes affects the way we experience Him. I have definitely experienced God as something like a permeating fog. A presence that surrounds me and seeps into my life and gets into every nook and cranny. I have also felt God’s presence like a refreshing rain as I was driving my car to work and a song on the radio seemed to drench my soul. Sometimes rain comes in great quantities in a thunderstorm or Monsoon that makes us flee and take cover. It seems like the God of the old testament often came across this way to the Israelites.
What about the rains that are harmful, hurtful, or seem out of control? I think this is a bit like the philosophical dilemma that puzzles many…why do bad things happen to good people? If God is good why is there bad in the world? I think this is where the water metaphor for God is helpful. In order to have the process that creates light rain, dew, fog, and the myriad of other forms water takes one has to accept that these same processes sometimes produce thunderstorms and hurricanes. God must exhibit a range of forms or modes to communicate and interact with us. There are times when us strong-willed humans need a thunderstorm to get our attention, while other times a light rain will do.
Sometimes the “storms” are a result of poor choices we make and sometimes we experience the “storms” brought about by the poor choices of others. Sometimes a thunderstorm will arrive and impact a lot of people. Some people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Does this mean God does not care about those who get drenched by “accident”? I think God cares very deeply for each one of us, but I also think it is important to God that we have the freedom to make choices, even though some choose to bring on thunderstorms. The cool thing about God is He is always there waiting with a towel and a cup of hot chocolate — even after the worst storms imaginable.
What about floods? They happen on rivers quite often and are the subject of news stories every spring. Floods are basically too much water too fast. So continuing with our analogy between God and water, can you ever have too much God? I am not sure I have a great answer for this, but I can share a little bit about what I know about floods and rivers. Most rivers, if they have not been changed or manipulated by humans, can handle most floods. They have floodplains and sediments that are delicately in balance so that when floods occur the river does not destroy itself. They are in what scientists refer to as “dynamic equilibrium”. When humans change natural systems by installing levees or dams to prevent them from flooding they can actually make floods more destructive when they do occur.
I have felt like I am “getting too much of God” before and it is usually because of my preparation and posture. When I fail to invest in my relationship with God I am not prepared for the occasional times when God “floods” into my life. I am not in “dynamic equilibrium” with God. I have also allowed my spirit and soul to become “modified by humans” so it was unprepared to handle a “God flood”. My posture toward God was affected by things I read, listened to, or watched on television.
Water has been described by some as the universal solvent. Almost everything, with the exception of gold and a few other compounds, is affected, changed, or broken down by water. Iron rusts, salt dissolves, limestones dissolves and reforms into cave features. God is the universal solvent for the human soul. We are meant to be dissolved, changed, and affected by God. The interesting thing about being dissolved into the sea of God’s spirit is that from all I have read, and my own experience, it seems we remain distinct, even though we are in effect dissolved into God.
Prayer: God as I take a break from my daily reflection rejuvenate and restore my soul so that I can hear your voice and continue learning how to “Walk on Water”.