Faces on Faith: Symbols to inspire our hands, hearts and souls
Last week the Gulf was so churned up that the sound of the surf traveled all the way back into our little cul-de-sac off of West Gulf Drive. Incredible how the sound of the roaring sea – with just the right wind direction – can sweep into the quiet of our back porch. Even in its power and fury, I find the sound of the sea calming, soothing, and at times conducive to contemplative moments. How often do people tell me they walk by the shore to think, to wade mentally and physically through a difficult decision-making process, or to talk with God – in thankfulness, in search, or in anger? Perhaps the intensity of the ocean’s sound helps us drown out all else and actually create a space to listen to where God is calling us, or how God is with us as we teeter through the shifting sands of life.
The sound of water – calming, soothing, contemplative … and how refreshing, cleansing, and purifying when we immerse ourselves in it. No wonder that purification rites involved the element of water in so many ancient cultures and have found their way into present-day religions as well.
“Bpt?” – to dip, to immerse, to sink, to bathe in water.” Steeped in the history of Jewish rites of purification, Christians continued this practice of immersion in water, transforming the ritual into a meaning that encompassed repentance, forgiveness, and a welcome into the Body of Christ. By water and the Spirit we become new again – refreshed, cleansed, and given another beginning – another opportunity for resurrected lives. Ah, that we could be baptized every day, as we teeter and stumble in the shifting sands of our lives! And how we can, simply by that renewal of our spirits, heartfelt repentance, and knowledge that God’s Spirit is at work in the world and meets us right where we are, “to bind up the broken-hearted.”
How broken-hearted we are these days with the suffering from the terrible earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, and the never-ending suffering of the migrants and refugees in the Middle East – still thousands without a roof over their heads? As we try to discover ways to reach out to people in those circumstances, we hopefully put aside the petty arguments, caustic comments, and infighting – in our personal lives and especially in the life of our country. How petty that all seems when we open our eyes to the realities of suffering in the world.
Someone told me she’d sent a check to a global charitable agency to assist the earthquake families, but that she felt so helpless in doing anything to really mitigate the suffering, and felt the only other thing she could do was to keep the suffering in prayer. So, she planned a candlelight vigil in her home town last week, not only to keep people in prayer, but also to spread the word through pictures in the local newspaper that a vigil was held and that time and donations were badly needed. She told me her combination of prayer and action, the same that she does for her local soup kitchen, would hopefully give even one family a new beginning and a sign of hope – one candle, one hand, one heart at a time.
Whether you use the symbol of water, the symbol of a lighted candle, or the symbolic gesture of breaking bread with a stranger, symbols are powerful and tangible visuals that can inspire hundreds of others to do what they need to do. These symbols of water light, and bread can also inspire us as we pray, as we reach out to those in need, as we discover unique resolutions to problems, and as we reconnect with the spiritual side of ourselves – that vital component of body, mind and spirit that we often neglect. So, walk by the water, immerse yourselves in the water, light a candle, build a bonfire, and break bread together with someone whose heart is broken. God’s Holy Spirit is alive and working in this crazy world, but it takes all of our prayers and hands and hearts to create spaces for resurrections.