I was sitting in a small hotel conference room with around 40 fellow young clergy. The planners of this activity had set aside this time during the UCC's General Synod to invite this group to a time of worship and renewal before the bigger event really started. It featured a renewal of baptism with drops of water flung onto our heads from tree branches; an encouragement to remember who and Whose we are.
But not before we heard about trout fishing.
Rev. Emily C. Heath was our reflector for the afternoon. They shared an experience of visiting a bait shop to hear about the best places to find fish, during which they heard about living water vs. dead water. As it turns out, there are certain spots in rivers that are considered dead: nothing is moving, and there is no chance to find fish in those places. Contrast this with living water, where there is movement and thus there is life.
If you are in dead water, you won't find much that will sustain or invigorate you. But in living water, vitality and refreshment abounds.
I'd spent the week prior to this moment on the beach. This place in Florida is one of my terrains of the heart, to which I return either physically or through memory to be rejuvenated. I and my family spent this time in the living waters of the ocean, with their waves breaking on the sand; the sounds of their crashing a gentle echo in my ears.
We saw fishing boats all week. This water had plenty of life to share.
And it shared it with me. I stood on the shore, the sand collecting around my ankles while my children kicked and splashed and jumped. I watched the waters move and flow in, out, and across. I'd come to stand here after six months without a true break, at times wondering where certain parts of my life are headed, trying to keep other things afloat related to my sense of call and my own spirit.
I was tired. I'd been treading in dead water for a while. But even the thought that I'd soon be here kept me going.
My word for this week was "Kairos," which can mean "the right time," or "on God's time." This is to be contrasted with "Chronos," or chronological time where everything is scheduled, parsed out, urgent, and in its proper order. Chronos is our attempt to control time and, by extension, all that happens to us. Kairos is our giving ourselves to the moment and to allow things to unfold around and in us.
Whatever this living water had to give me this week, I would allow it to happen. Nothing pre-scheduled, save a day in the Harry Potter parks at Universal, and even that was largely unstructured. No planning what I would do upon returning home; no mental energy spent on issues I'd return to. Just God's time spent with these waves of replenishment.
So by the time I sat in that banquet room for worship, I'd already been immersed in living water. To have it framed that way only deepened my appreciation of the experience. It would continue as I walked along Baltimore's Inner Harbor and as I sweated out toxins searching for Edgar Allen Poe's grave. It continued as I refueled with drinking water and heard about the waters of God making all things glad per the designated theme of the conference.
As usual, I hadn't fully recognized my need for living water until I was standing in it, sprinkled by it, drenched in it, fulfilled by it. I finally found my way out of dead water into something new. And on God's time, I'll discover what that newness is.