Monday, February 5, 2007

Gathering Steam

This morning I was up early to help get one kid off to school. He has a bit of a commute to get there and his dad was going to drive him, so they wanted to be out the door early with everything all packed and ready to go - so, I helped. Not so unusual. I had been up really way too late the night before. Again, not too unusual. The house was quiet; not even the dog was stirring. Pretty unusual. So I decided to take a nice hot bath with no one up to call out to me, badger, pester or otherwise harrass me. Extremely unusual. Ahhhhhhh....

Since it was so early, the sun hadn't quite fully come up yet, but there was enough light coming in that I could see what I needed to do without turning on a glaring bulb to help me out. Did I mention I am so totally NOT a morning person? Anyway, sinking into the hot, steamy tub of water I submerged as much of my body as possible up to the top of my shoulders. After a few minutes of total relaxation - in which I surprisingly did not fall back to sleep - I raised my hand up out of the water to reach for the soap. What I saw next was really cool. There was steam rising up off of my hand.

I sat there amused at first, thinking 'this is pretty cool.' And then I just kinda kept playing, seeing how long I could make steam. Not surprisingly, the longer I held my hand immersed in the hot water, the longer I could "make steam." Of course, I wasn't really making the steam. And even being able to see that steam rising as if it were really emitting from my pores had a lot to do with the way the light was coming in. Bet you know where I'm going with this...

..that was definitely one of those "understanding God better" moments. Observing the way the steam was working made me think about how God's Holy Spirit works similarly:

  • I wasn't creating the steam. The steam was there because of the hot water. This is like how the Holy Spirit doesn't come from me, but from the source who is the Ground of All Being. The Spirit in me is God's Spirit not mine.

  • The steam was doing my body good as my pores were soaking up the hot water and as I breathed it in and at the same time, the steam was being released from me. God's Spirit is simultaneously at work on me, in me, and through me. I can't "trap" God's Spirit, but I can soak that Spirit in and immediately that same Spirit will begin to emit.

  • The longer I submerged my hand in the hot water, the longer I could "give off" steam. The longer I immerse myself in God through prayer, worship, study, and meditation, the longer I can "give off" Godliness - and the longer it is before I "run out of steam."

  • The steam was visible because of the stillness of the moment and the light. It is when I slow down and take some time that I can really see God's Spirit at work. Slowing down and spending time in the light of Christ is what enables me to witness that Spirit in motion - at work on me and my environment.

  • I saw that my body had the capacity to do something that in my 40+ years I've never known before that it could do. I've known for years that I could make steam with my breath, but even so, I never imagined that I could make steam with my skin! God has created us to do things that are beyond what our past experience tells us we can. God has creaetd us with a capacity that goes beyond our imaginations. We are made in God's image and therefore, we have the ability to bear that creative, spirit-giving character of God.
  • I had to make a decision to set apart the time. I did it out of my need, but there was a surprise in store that I was not aiming for, wasn't expecting, didn't conjure up on my own. All the same, that hot water was right there in the plumbing lines and that empty tub was just waiting to be filled. All I had to do was make use of the resources that I had been given - flip the drain latch and turn on the faucet...and step in. Likewise - God is always there waiting to be tapped into, beckoning us to take the time. And God provides us with a multitude of resources: Christian communities (i.e., churches), the Bible, the sacraments (e.g., baptism and communion), devotional classics (by the likes of Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, CS Lewis, Annie Dillard, and many others.) We just have to make the decision to enter in and make use of what's already there waiting for us.

What connections do you make with this story? Do tell...

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