I took a quick trip last week that was more about activity than rest - not exactly a vacation, more of a get-away. Before leaving the hotel I paused for a final look out the window to take a mental photo of the natural beauty above the treetops. We tweet and post our pictures, but it's the image in our mind, the imprint on our soul that we take with us as our best, most lasting souvenir.
Tucked into the lush greenery there's a small man-made lake that adds rich contrast to the park. It's usually very still, but on Saturday a breeze rippled gently across the water. And as the wind pushed on the surface then subtly changed, the small waves competed in two different directions. It looked cross-hatched - the orderly, predictable ripples were disrupted and chaotic, in that moment there was no flow or direction.
Sometimes we experience a similar ripple effect when something or someone disturbs the tranquil surface of our life. In truth, hardly a day goes by without some aggravation, annoyance, or upset that draws our heart away from peace and assails the delicate balance of our emotional equilibrium. It’s always amazing how quickly and profoundly even the small ripples of daily life can affect us. We’re coasting along and suddenly a ripple turns into a tidal wave that overwhelms our life - it spreads and widens to engulf not only us, but also those we know and love.
In grief so much more than a gentle breeze roils the surface calm of our existence. The death of one we love is no pebble or a skipping stone casually tossed into the shallow end of our life. When the heavy rock of death enters the deep water of our life, grief creates so much more than a ripple effect. We experience a profound, unalterable sea change. The ebb and flow of our life is transformed from what once was to what now is without our loved one. The tidal rhythm of our very soul is challenged. We feel random, without a sure direction. The ripples and waves of our grief slap at all that was once so familiar. They extend in an ever-expanding radius to encompass everything and everyone we hold dear.
When one we love dies, how do we gather in the ripples, renew our peace, and find again our center of calm? We seek a safe haven, a refuge, the spiritual respite of that private place deep within us we know is “beside still waters”. It’s our God-given place of unshakeable tranquility, it’s the hushed quiet in which we pause, breathe, and – if only for a moment – we relax. And as we grieve and reflect, what we see from the depths of our soul is the mirror image of a loving God, a God of compassion and comfort who stills our heart despite the ripples and waves of grief. God “leads me beside still waters; “he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2 NRSV). God’s care is personal. God leads us - you and me.
The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love.
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
Keep me this day, O God, in the tranquility of your calm. Amen.