Saturday, October 31, 2015

Many Waters

With the junction of performing my first baptism and the rain we have been experiencing in Houston lately, I've been thinking about the place of water in our lives. There are a lot of stories in the Bible that deal with water and the Thanksgiving over the Water prayer from the Episcopal baptism service in the BCP highlights a few of them: creation, the passage through the Red Sea, and Jesus' baptism. But there are many many more, fishing stories, storm stories, rain and floods, Noah, Jonah, Peter walking on water, Paul being shipwrecked, the list goes on. Water has a huge place in the biblical narrative. I'm a huge fan of the writings of Madeleine L'Engle and one of her children's novels is called Many Waters and its about Noah's family before the flood. But interestingly enough, the title is taken from a verse of scripture not in the Noah story of Genesis. Madeleine highlights a verse from the Song of Solomon:

"Many waters cannot quench love
neither can the floods drown it."
Song of Solomon 8:7

I love this verse. It sounds like simple poetic Hebrew parallelism, the second line restates the first in a different way. Both lines deal in large water images, but I've come to realize that the lines come at the idea in two very different ways. The first line talks about the undeniable thirst that is involved in love - for greater knowledge, greater understanding, greater intimacy. God knows us completely, every vice, virtue, mitochondria, glucose molecule, every brain wave pattern. Yet, despite this infinite and intimate knowledge of us, God remains with us, still watching - with inexplicable sorrow and joy - throughout our lives. As a mother, knowing her child better than anyone else, continues to watch and delight in first and reoccurring experiences she already knows. She knows what it is to walk, but when her child does so for the first time, it is a wondrously new thing. God loves us with a thirst that cannot be quenched.

The second line speaks of an endurance and strength that cannot be swept away or drowned. Nothing can destroy love in its purity. As the apostle Paul says, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39) Even when we stray far a field from  - when we run and deny and fight against and are indifferent to - this God who created us, God's love endures.

Thus together, love is a thirsty endurance, an enduring thirst. "A longing for the reunion of the separated," as theologian Paul Tillich says. For "many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." Water is an amazingly powerful part of our universe, and so is love.