27 July 2008

Spiritual waves

This morning my friend Ian and I went driving around the southwestern side of Oahu and, after grabbing a bite to eat, settled for the early afternoon at White Plains Beach (which is, I think, part of Eva Beach).

It was a very nice beach and almost inaccessible to tourists as it isn't easy to find (which makes it even nicer).

I'm not the best of swimmers and I'm rather a coward by nature (or perhaps overly cautious and worrisome) and I still have memories of that shoulder dislocation last May (a "classic situation" that I do not wish to relive). Consequently, for the first several minutes of our stay at the beach I remained where the waves reached only my knees. Being so close to the shore is safe, comfortable and allows me to be more in control than not.

This is how I often live my life, on the fringe where things are calm and predictable. I have had very little control over most of the key elements of my life - many of them quite sad - and so I like to what little control I can. At the same time, though, I can feel the Holy Spirit urging me to surrender.

Finally, after much urging and convincing from Ian, I ventured out to just beyond the point where the waves broke and the water remained mostly about shoulder level.

It took some time but I became accustomed to bouncing along with the waves, though the occassional wave did take me by surprise. I'd never ventured out so far into the waters, which prompted a bit of theological reflection (I am a priest afterall, even if on vacation).

I couldn't help but notice the rythym of the waves, one after another, generally in a gentle repetition. Many of the trials and joys of life come in a similar pattern, do they not?

It reminded me very much of the spiritual life. If we are to grow in faith, hope and love, we cannot remain beyond the point of the breaking of the waves where it is "safe" and "comfortable." Here we remain closed to the Holy Spirit because we refuse to give him control over our lives, trying as we do to maintain our grip on life. On the fringe we grow stagnant, we whither and eventually die.

We must, rather, "put out for the deep," allowing the waves of the Holy Spirit to buoy us along. The Spirit has his own rythyms and unless we accept his movements in our lives we cannot grow. We must surrender to him and move where he wills.

All of this, of course, requires trust, both in the waves and in the "Lord and giver of life." And trust is not always easy, but it is this simple trust that the Lord requires of us.

Where will the waves of the Spirit take me? I cannot yet be certain. I feel drawn now to great youth ministry and to greater ministry through the Internet, particularly with this blog and with podcasting. I can also feel the tug of the Spirit to return to writing, both to finish a few papers that are well past due, and to resume work on several articles and books that I have begun.

What holds me back? Why do I not simply plunge in? I do not know, but I shall use these remaining days in Paradise to ask the Spirit's guidance and to implore from the Lord the gift of courage, courage to abandon myself completely to his will.

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