In these warmer days, Gibbs has a funny habit during his afternoon walks. He will start off in a patch of shade, sniff around and sit for a while, then run with a big smile on his face and tail wagging to the next patch of shade to repeat this all over again. The park we have taken to walking in during the afternoons has plenty of shade for him to do this in, and grass to run on, and there is always a breeze. And at the end of the short walk there is a stream to drink from and swim in. So he is a happy little walker whose shade hopping amuses me!
Watching him the other day I realized that this is life at the moment though. We hop from one safe spot to the next, running in between them as quickly as possible. We stay in the shade of our homes, then run out to the shops, grabbing what we can as quickly as possible before running back to the shade of our homes. Or deliver meals for the homeless without stopping to chat, or walk in nature keeping far away from other walkers. While some feel it’s safe to linger in those exposed places, even with a mask on I still try to limit my time where I might transmit or pick up CoVid, and not in a fearful way, but in a “I care about you, and want to protect you,” way. I hop from shade to shade, lingering in the shady places for, maybe, a tad too long, but when in the sun scurry along quickly with a masked smile to all I meet. If I had a tail, it might well be wagging as my love for the world shines forth in this way!
I think I am also this way with my feelings. Mostly I try to hang out in the shade, the feelings that are easy, or nothingness, even the apathy and holding it all at arms length. The shade is a place to feel somewhat safe, somewhat protected from the frenetic vibrations of the world around. Yet, every now and then I have to venture into the burning sun of feelings…. The anger, the fear, the grief, the anxiety of the unknown, both the worlds’ and my own. For as much as the shade is ok, the sun is full of life and people and noise and the vibrations scream so loudly that I cannot ignore them any more. It is right to pay attention, to see what the world is seeing. And, yes, it can be hot and dangerous, but these spaces between the shade are bright with truth, and it is more dangerous to ignore these flashes of reality even if they feel like they are burning.
I find though, after dashing through an intense feeling, the shade is no longer a place I want to hang out in. It feels dull, lifeless, a false sense of safety lives there. While it may offer some protection, it slows everything down, makes me feel like I am moving through thick molasses, my thought processes are dull and my body is heavy. The sun is, perhaps, where the life is, the feelings are what brings everything into focus. The shade just keeps it all at bay, yet there is so much more to living that holding those feelings out at arms length.
I think what I really need, though, is that stream of water to plunge into at the end of that sun-shade dance. The water that cools and refreshes, the water where I can soak in God’s love, no matter what I have been feeling before. The stream of grace and mercy and hope. This allows the feelings to be felt in a way that is safe and good, it allows the shade to be seen as a safe, but somewhat lifeless place. The water is what brings true life.
John Lewis wrote these words just before he died:
“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”
I may write the same sentiment saying, “When historians write this story, let them say it was our generation who stepped out of the shade, who felt the burn of the suns of war and violence and aggression, and waded into Peace and Love, allowing these to guide and refresh and challenge to make good trouble. Let the Living Water be your guide.”
May we not linger too long in the shade, not get burnt too badly by the sun, but let us seek the living waters of Love to show us the way.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.