Friday, August 10, 2007

Rocks, water, light, listening, and love

I’m not sure I know how to tell this story yet. Bear with me.

I’d been needing an ocean fix. I had a day off last Friday, so I drove out to Goat Rock. I was craving a good, long walk on the beach. I needed to pray—and I often do that best when I’m moving.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to play in the water, and I was right. There are signs up everywhere with diagrams of hapless drowning victims, reading, “This is one of the most dangerous beaches in California. Here’s a picture of a sleeper wave. Stay out of the surf.” The “safe” area is more-or-less flat; the danger zone slopes steeply toward the ocean. I was there at high tide; the water came almost to the lip. It was so socked-in that I couldn’t see very far; this was kind of like looking down at a huge, unpredictably roiling bathtub.

I walked toward the rock, slowly, barefooted over sand and gravel. The beach is fairly narrow at high tide, and bounded on the dry side by rusty, windswept cliffs. Something told me to go check them out. I found myself standing, my back pressed to the dry, solid edge of California, feet thrust into shifting sand, face toward the wind and water. I was thinking of plate tectonics, how the cliff I was leaning on was slowly pushing toward the ocean.

And I felt God saying, “Go.” Not literally, “jump into these lethal currents,” but, “Dive into my ocean, swim with me, live with and love my people.” The voice inside me was the rock at my back: warm, supportive, relentless. The water was all life, all possibility, all adventure, all love.

When I pay attention… wow.

I don’t know how long I stood there, just being with all of this. Then I went and perched on the jetty for awhile, watching the water, listening. Walking back, I noticed a rock at my feet. It was pale grey-blue, light and porous, a flat outline of an egg, barely denser than pumice. I don’t know what it’s actually made of. It reminded me of the volcanic rock from Mt. St. Helens, when I hiked there with friends at home. It was about the diameter of a fifty-cent piece; I would have skipped it across the water without thinking, had I been at the edge of the Sound. As it was, I held it for awhile, turned it over and looked at it, then tossed it back onto the ground. But… I’m not that pagan, but something gave me pause. It seemed to want to come with me. So I picked it up again, and walked on, watching the ground because the gravel hurt my feet.

The same thing happened two more times. I carried three small, flat, nearly identical rocks home in my pocket. I’m holding them now, pausing as I type this. I don’t want to say something totally blasphemous, but… three. Hmmm. As I hold them, I can hear the wind, feel the spray in my face. I know I am to be present. To remember, and to listen.

Lots of people, despite the fog and the signs posted, were frolicking in the water. I thought they were idiots; I also was envious of them. I wanted to get my feet wet. I watched the waves until I knew where they ended, and I ran toward one. It wasn't cold like I expected; it felt warm, like the water kissed my feet. That was enough, though; I didn't go even as deep as my ankles, and I only did it once.

My sort of pre-discernment prayer group met after church last Sunday. We sat together in silence for half an hour. I didn’t have these rocks with me, but I imagined that I held them, and I sat with this experience. I sat with the wonder, the excitement, the tension of being in a place I love now, and knowing it is only for now. I love being at the Ranch; love the people, enjoy the work. It’s another family. There couldn’t be a better summer set-up for me. But while I say that I’d stay here forever if I could, I know that isn’t really true. I can come back odd weekends and host, and I will. But I have other work to do. I’m going back to school in less than a month. Back to NOLA in January. My deepest calling is working with forgotten people. Bearing witness and reconciling is my passion, and what everything in me wants to do. But I’m still unfolding and figuring out so much.

I talked about all of this after our silent time. I said, “I don’t know what kind of fish I am.” I need to jump into the water, riptides and all, and find out. This is and has been a wonderful, safe place. It will be a home for me as long as I need and want it to be. But another life also calls me.

Something else was poking at me, sitting and praying in this circle. My mentor from my first year of seminary, good friend ever since, was at church on Sunday. It had maybe been a month since we’d seen each other; she gave me a hug like she hadn’t seen me in a year. She tells me the damnedest things sometimes, really amazing affirmations, but she’s about the least gushy person I know. And she kept telling me how glad she was to see me.

She is one of my rocks, and she knows it. She helped me through a very dark time. I’m giving something to her now, just by existing. We all have this light within us. We shine it unconsciously, and we have no idea of the effect we have on other people.

I keep coming back to the question I was asked as part of a group affirmations game, at the close of a domestic-violence volunteer training, March 1992: “How do you want to love the world?”

How do you love the world, right now? What do you need to dig up, get rid of, pray through, or whatever, to love the world the way you’re most deeply called to?


Mimi said...

Wow! My friend, jump in and swim!

Anonymous said...

Now that is writing. And praying. And human being. E-hugs.

Apostle In Exile said...

Neat post!

Kirstin said...

Thank you all! Much love.

lj said...

Beautiful post, Kirstin. I don't think you need to be pagan or blasphemous to hear God's creation speaking to you. Jesus used parables involving rocks, fields, flowers, bird, animals, trees ... God speaks to us with whatever it takes.

Your love and energy and passion for living come through this post so well. I love it. Thank you for sharing.

Kirstin said...

Thank you, lj!

lj said...

Hope you don't mind that I linked this post in my latest one.

Kirstin said...

Mind? I'm honored. Thank you.

juniper68 said...

hi and hugs - great post

eileen said...

((((K)))) - Powerful - the draw, the call. Tension is in all, right?