A body of water

One of the joys of spring for me is re-entering the lake. Lake Erie is relatively shallow, and warms up surprisingly quickly once the winter weather is safely past. Sometime in May, the surface smooths out, the herons return, and the deeps beckon. There is something profoundly healing in the cold shock of the first swim, forcing breath to reckon with its elements, buoying body and spirit with flat waves.

When Jesus called himself living water, speaking with the woman at the well, it was in the context of thirst and satisfaction, work and rest, heat and the cooling balm of a cup of cold water. Yet there are other ways that water brings me to life. (I wouldn’t want to drink the lake!)

Swimming for only the third time so far this year, I wondered what it would be like to find Jesus in the living water surrounding me: an environment, an element. If that physical shock, the compression of air that accompanies the first plunge into cold water, and the slow and deliberate accommodation of it into regular breathing were something akin to prayer. If the way that, with practice, patience, and repeated exposure my body becomes acclimatized to the lake has something to say about discipleship.

We call it a “body” of water. Recently, such bodies have received novel protection in law and are even suing for their rights. Lakes are creatures, created, embodied …

As well as thirst and satisfaction, work and rest, heat and cooling, Jesus’ conversation with the woman of Samaria was about history and belonging, relationships, restoration, and the deep well of God’s love and faithfulness. Such things the lake brings to mind as the breeze moves across the waters, rippling away my reflection and replacing it with its own face.

We pray together.

The Revd Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, and author of Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent questions for Christians in an age of violence (July 2021), and A Family Like Mine: biblical stories of love, loss, and longing. Read more from Rosalind at rosalindchughes.com.

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