By D. Thomas
“The cove was a cool, deep pool in a ring of evergreens. The green-gold water flowed over everything and remained itself, seamless and whole. In the water she was free. The water made room for her, welcomed her, closed protectively around her, soft and warm and silky like the water of a womb, with lily stems like umbilical cords from the cold mud bottom to the sunlit surface air. She had not realized how cut ad bruised she was until she felt the water’s healing …
“Water seemed to be her element, her home, left sometime long ago but remembered deep in her cells; all her life her sweetest dreams were about swimming rather than flying, and she regretted the loss of her ability to breathe underwater.” (D.Thomas)
The earliest dream I can remember, which for some reason I think I dreamed at my grandmother’s, whose house, in many many dreams, has “the secret playrooms” which I might know are here somewhere in this dream landscape or that, so I will look for them, but which did not in fact exist– the first dream was of water. I was best friends with a prince, which I suspect comes from Saint- Exupery (The Little Prince) or Twain’s Prince and the Pauper ; I was the pauper, and it had come time for the prince to learn to be one, and so iron gates were to be closed between us. In rebellion, we ran away, and we dove into the water because we were being chased, and we swam down and down, and I lost all sight of my friend and soul mate; he vanished, but I discovered that I could breathe underwater, and it was cool and silent, the most peaceful state in the world.
In many dreams since, there have been oceans and storms and turbulence, and I have remembered that I can breathe under water, and have dived down under the turbulence to the peaceful quiet safety.
There is nothing as refreshing as clear, cool, unpoisoned water.
Salt water heals– cuts, scrapes, gerbil bites ( ah childhood!), sore throats. Salt water heals hearts when they well in tears of gratitude, of joy, of grief, of sorrow, of anger, of repentance.
Our bodies are mostly water, and we need water more than food to live; we need water as we need air.
Water is a primary symbol of the unconscious in Jungian psychology; the archetypes of humanity’s collective unconscious he calls riverbeds for the waters of life, those ways of understanding which flow through stories, histories, dreams, myths; particular images and symbols fade out of use or dry up from loss of meaning, from loss of value, but which can rush back, which can flood the riverbed, its banks, the cracked dry plains around it.
The Nile valley was fertile because of her yearly flooding.
If a soul or a nation is in a spiritual drought and prone to fires, when rain does come, there are too often torrential floods and mudslides, one disaster changed for another if the psyches will not be transformed in gentler ways. Transformation, from the first life on earth, has begun in water.
The Earth herself began with water, it is said.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was brooding over the waters.” [GENESIS 1:1-2]
Then, this sounds like an ancient or alchemical text intuiting the steam and vapor from the cooling planet clearing, or the hydrogen and oxygen molecules and atoms acquiring bonds to carbon and selenium and salt:
“And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse ‘sky’… And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas,’ And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation…’ [GEN. 1:3-11].
And, I am diving into the Bible again because I do believe in Christ Jesus, wholly man for thirty- three years in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and wholly God, ever and always, and this man Jesus read, quoted, taught, and fulfilled the prophecies within the Hebrew scriptures, the Christian Old Testament, and inspired all the New.
“I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my strength and salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” [ISAIAH 12 :2-3].
Water was and is for baptism, ceremonial cleansing away of the sins one repents of– symbolically for infants– in preparation for the coming of God, for any sitting at the table with God, the Wedding Feast of the Bridegroom Christ, the Love Feast. Communion– remembering Jesus with the bread and wine which represent his body and his blood, is also called the love feast, shared by all who desire Him ( small h for the man, Jesus state, capital H for Christ the LORD, the Godhead); turning water to wine at the Wedding at Cana (JOHN 2: 1-12, his “first sign,”) was turning the water in jars used for washing hands into wine that, at every love feast since his death and resurrection, symbolizes the blood he shed to wash us clean of sin.
(At the very human wedding, his mother Mary asked him to help the groom and the family out– they’d run out of wine, which probably meant they were poor, and this late, better wine, was for joy– and signals the better joy. He multiplied bread and fish to feed crowds more than once, but he did not turn stones to bread for himself when Satan tempted him in the wilderness, when he had been fasting and was very hungry. He said that man does not live by bread alone, but by the words of the Father. He told the crowds and followers that he was the Bread of Heaven. He referred to the Father’s will as his food again later, in JOHN 4: 34: “‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.'” Food: what feeds us.)
Most of the Psalms and hymns of praise, and prophetic verses of restoration and healing mention the springs of water flowing in the dry and desolate lands; water springs and trees are planted and flowers bloom in deserts, and the animals come to drink and eat. God provides the water for the wild donkeys and all the animals to drink, and at the wells the people have established, men and camels drink.
Tears are prayers, of sorrow and want, of thanksgiving and Joy. They well up from our souls.
Two of my favorite Bible stories involve possibly sketchy women– with whom I identify– and wells.
In the Old Testament, when Abraham, who was a friend of God, who followed God’s instructions and who argued with God on behalf of the possibly virtuous residents in the cities God was going to destroy for their wickedness, was waiting, waiting, waiting for the promised son who would be a blessing to all; Abe was pushing one hundred, with wife Sarah getting near to ninety. Impatient, he had a child by the Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. Sleeping with her had been Sarah (Sarai)’s idea, but then she was annoyed by the pregnant girl’s superior attitude,
“Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, sevant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?'” [GEN. 16: 6-8]
Hagar received a blessing and said, 16:13, ” She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'”
I love that.
After Sarah had borne Isaac she threw Hagar and her son Ishmael out of the household and camp, jealous for Isaac’s inheritance ( no one is perfect). Hagar and Ishmael then wandered in the desert, and when they had run out of water, she put the boy under a bush and began to cry.
“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” [GEN. 21: 17-19.]
A sermon could be built on that paragraph: God hears you. Open your eyes, open your eyes. And when you see the well of water, fill your container, give the kid a drink. Take his hand, lift him up– this is faith.
Ishmael is the patriarch of the Islamic peoples: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all begin with Genesis, these People Of The Book all come from the same Abraham.
But there has always been trouble in and between human kingdoms with mortal kings or emperors, with children born of mortal women and men, by blood and the will of the husband, to many wives and concubines, and the long history of the Hebrews’ division into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the deaths of David and his son Solomon, born to Bathsheba with whom David committed adultery and for whom he committed murder, the corruption and idolatry and covenant breaking led to the Assyrian exile of the Northern (Israel, later Samaria) about 720 B.C.E. and the Southern (Judah or Judea) in 586 B.C.E.
(Bear with me as I “geek out ” a minute: The Prophet Isaiah, who is the one most quoted by Jesus and at Christmas [“For unto us a Child is born...”] lived and wrote in the late 8th century (B.C.E.) during the reigns of Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; he foresaw the Assyrians’ conquering of Israel and the Babylonians defeating Judah if there was no repentance, and also, that Cyrus, the King of Persia, would permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild their Temple. Nebuchadnezzar invaded and destroyed Judah in 586 B.C.E.; the exile or captivity lasted seventy years. Daniel and Ezra and write of this (Daniel lived in Babylon from the time of Nebuchadnezzar [ DAN. 1:21] to the reign of Cyrus [10: 1], and Ezra was in charge of the rebuilding when Cyrus decreed it around 530 B.C.E. [ EZ. 1:1- 6:14]). The cool thing is that Isaiah mentioned Cyrus by name:
“(I am the LORD) who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid. This is what the LORD says of his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him… I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor though you do not acknowledge me…” [ISAIAH 44:28-45: 1, 4-5, 45:19, and, several verses later, 45: 19:] “I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness.”
“See, the former things have taken place,” God said, in 42:9, “and new things I declare: before they spring into being I announce them to you.” )
Springs and wells of water. Streams run to rivers.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” [REVELATION 22: 1-3]
Jesus called Himself Living Water.
The Woman at the Well in the Gospel of John was a Samaritan woman. The Israelites who stayed in the area and intermarried with Assyrians and other Gentiles worshiped differently than the Jews who did, thanks to King Cyrus of Persia, rebuild their Temple, and the descendants, Samaritans and Jews, loathed each other. However, Jesus and his fellows often traveled through the land, for it was between Galilee and Jerusalem. One day, Jesus got tired and thirsty. He sat at Jacob’s well near Sychar, and while the disciples with him went into town to buy food and provisions, a woman came to the well at about noon to draw water.
“…Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?”..The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’…Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink you would have asked him and he would give you living water….Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.'” [JOHN 4: 7-15].
She did not understand quite yet that he was not talking about physical thirst, but, although she was a woman who had had five husbands and was living with a man she was not married to– on top of being a Samaritan ad even just a woman–, Jesus told her:
“a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.’
” The woman said, ‘I know the Messiah’ (called Christ)’ is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
” Then Jesus declared, “I who am speaking to you am he.'” [JOHN 4:23-26].
Tears are prayers. The Spirit enters us– and is spirit but is the creator of molecules, of atoms, of electrons, of sky and of seas and of earth and bodies; Jesus the Word through which all things that are made are made became a human with a body of calcium and carbon and hydrogen and salt; this Spirit enters our cells. We are transformed from within, in our very cells, and in the deepest darks of unconscious mind, before, below where we we even know of it– from which we might dream, from where we act, where we break forth and pour over walls and dams and riverbank, destroying old ways– if uncontained, misunderstood, unacknowledged, damage can be done– canyons are carved, the known world (of the Fertile Crescent) was flooded– and tears well up; life and joy can bubble up. We can drink deeply, we can swim, swim ourselves clean.
The end of a story, a paragraph of which I opened with, is:
“She had to wash. She slipped down the dark stairs, out the unlocked front door, and ran across the road, down the dirt path to the lake. She threw her stained night dress onto the dock and dove into the black water. Its cooling warmth closed around her, closed over her softly, dark and quiet like a womb, protecting her and taking her tears into its great bosom. She swam and swam, and the lake washed away the sticky filth, the sweat, the blood, the fear– as the sea sloughs off the skin of a dolphin so he can swim faster, ever clean and ever new…
“When the sun rose, it painted every needle and branch with gold leaf and varnished the surface of the cove with gold dust in its medium. A night dress lay crumpled on the wooden dock like a discarded skin, and the white water lilies on green pads opened like lotuses.”
I do not want mine to be a last word, however, so I’ll offer a sip more of Isaiah:
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” [Is. 55: 10-11]