From time to time, subscribers receive a bonus essay from me, usually from the archives of my now-closed blog (2004 - 2020, RIP). This is a small way for me to thank you for your support of my work and of Field Notes, to resurrect and share past favourites, and hopefully bring a little encouragement and goodness to your inbox at the same time. - S.
Find a bit of water to look at, it doesn’t have to be much. Maybe a pond, a river, a creek, a lake? if you’re really lucky, find the ocean. But go there alone at sunset. I know it seems indulgent and impossible – that’s because it is. But every once in a while, the best way to keep moving through your life is do something that seems impossibly kind for your own soul.
So go. Alone. Late in the day.
Leave behind the book. Leave behind your prayer journal. Leave behind the notebooks and schedule planning. Leave behind the mobile phone – if you’re in a good spot, there won’t be any reception anyways.
And here is your assignment: sit down and watch the water.
That’s exactly it.
Sit in silence at the edge of the water and learn to be satisfied.
This is the tricky part when your life is full with good and necessary and hard things, I know. Your mind will jump around from thing to thing to thing. You’ll feel guilty and then you’ll feel indolent. You’ll feel like time has slowed down.
You’ll start to think that you need to make this time “count” for God and so you’ll start to formally pray in the ways that you were taught to pray – stop that. Then you’ll want to journal or read that about-God-book you’ve been meaning to get to because you think you really need to grow spiritually and the only way to do that is to try harder. You’ll get restless. You’ll think of all the Things You Should Be Doing. You’ll feel twitchy perhaps. Then you’ll remember how when you were a kid you used to be able to just be in a place without compulsively needing to check text messages or chase around getting things done, and you’ll think I didn’t used to be so fragmented and urgent.
Be silent and watch the water. Do one thing right now and do it with your whole self.
Prayer will come, it just might look a bit different than you expect. Rest will come to your mind, you have to wait for it in patience, this isn’t the province of multi-taskers. The middle distance of your mind will rise up and envelope you in an exhale just as the sun sinks begins to move towards the horizon. You’ll start to notice life as it is happening in that moment and this might begin to feel in your body like how poetry is meant to sound.
A fish will fly up out of the water and return, leaving only a ring of circles going further and further out to every shore. You’ll see a bird and try to figure out what kind it is – a heron? look at that elegant neck – swooping down low over the water heading for the reeds. You’ll see dragonflies swooping and after a few times, you won’t duck in a cringe anymore. You’ll watch the clouds drift and the water move and the sun sink and your soul will begin to stretch out into the space left open. This is not only what you need – this is what you want, what you desire and even those are sacred things at times. Before you know it, your hands will find a spot to rest and your breath will slow down.
Become acquainted with the silence in your own soul, you might be surprised by the sound of you. Sometimes you might rise up in gratitude and thanksgiving, other times the pain you’re finally allowing yourself to feel might overwhelming, sometimes your soul feels like worship and sometimes this feels like encountering a stranger – do I know you? Then sometimes it might simply feel like a good friend you haven’t seen in far too long and you’ll think to yourself, why don’t I do this more often?
Let the sun set over the water. Be baptized in the gracious last light of the day, the satisfied light. Close your eyes and feel the light against your darkness, warming you.
When the sun has disappeared, the light remains. And when the night sinks down in shades of indigo and navy blue, you’ll be ready to be friends with the night and the silence, and hopefully with your own soul at last. The first star of the evening will appear at last like a benediction for the patient and faithful ones.
In case you missed it:
Conversation: What is giving you hope today? - for subscribers only
Wisdom from the Field: How do you navigate marriage while in deconstruction? - for subscribers only
Water in the Desert - for subscribers only
Conversation: What special series should we do next? - subscribers only