A few weeks ago I was having a conversation. Since it was a few weeks ago, I can’t remember with whom, or what the conversation was about. But along the way, I mentioned that one of my favorite sounds in the world is the sound of water lapping up on the shore of Lake Superior. Claudia and I will not be making our annual pilgrimage to the North Shore this year to sit and stare and the lake, but fortunately it’s one of those sensations I have stored in my deep memory, ready to be recalled when stress or the news gets too much to bear and I need to go to my “happy place” for a while.
It is hard to explain the restorative power just sitting by the lake. But I’ll give it a try anyway. First of all, if you haven’t seen Lake Superior, you have to imagine a freshwater lake you can’t see all the way across—nothing but the deepest azure blue from horizon to horizon. You have to imagine the gentle, rhythmic lapping of waves over the multi-color stones along the shore. You have to imagine a cool breeze blowing in off the water.
Sitting quietly by the shore is a refuge from the image- and message-saturated world we live in most of the time. It is a powerful presence, but it asks nothing of you. The lake doesn’t try to entice you to buy a product or service; it doesn’t try to convince you of the veracity of a political party or suggest the mendacity of an opponent.
There is a sacred presence in this deep body of ice-blue water, for sure, but the lake doesn’t ask you to believe in anything or to accept a doctrinal system.
Because the lake doesn’t ask anything of you, doesn’t require your presence—being there is a grace. Apart from the physical relaxation, sitting by this body of water offers the spiritual exercise of assuming a posture of openness and receptivity—a necessary step toward discerning God’s presence in the world and God’s will for your life.
It gives rise to what has become my most frequent daily prayer:
“May I receive this day and all that it brings as a gift of grace.”
Jesus often went away for a rest, and no doubt sat by the Sea of Galilee—another large freshwater lake. But even Jesus knew that you can’t stay there. We are restored in order to return to our ministry in the world where we wrestle with belief and doctrines and politics and economics. We are restored to be restorers—to be about God’s work of restoring the whole world, one person, one neighborhood, one community at a time.