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Feelings Like Water

Long ago, in the quiet of our mothers’ wombs, the snow began to fall.

Blood and water and food came into our bodies and nourished us.

Endorphins washed over us, along with surges of cortisol and adrenaline.

An invisible womb of emotion surrounded us, too, an atmosphere of fear or bitterness or rage. We breathed that air, and the snow fell.

We fought through a narrow place, through waves of pressure, to enter the world, and here we found the snow still falling. We cried our loneliness, our helplessness, our hunger and discomfort. We stretched our limbs to explore; we stumbled and fell. We met pain. We learned to make demands, and whether they were answered or ignored, the snow fell. We fought for attention, for freedom, for mastery. Mommy could not be bothered, and Daddy was angry, and there was no money, and still the snow fell.

We learned to interact with our siblings and our peers, or not. We discovered we were intelligent, skilled, funny, beautiful. Or not. We got a taste of how frightening the world is, how things we love can die and break and disappear.

With the energy of childhood we pounded the fallen snow beneath us. Our feet hit that cold soul-soil, running and running, crawling and jumping and riding, playing make-believe, and by the time we were reading and writing sentences, learning history and practicing our multiplication tables, most of us had packed the snow into glaciers. With the energy of childhood, we raced from peak to peak while the ice groaned beneath us. How silently the glaciers moved, shaping the continents of our inner worlds.

We lurched into adolescence and adulthood, little thinking of these interior landscapes. We had no language for description, no tools for comparison.

For us, this was the world. The bulk of the glaciers, the layers of snow packed hard, the soul-edges ground down by their continual push—this was home. This is home. We choose how and with whom we spend our days, thinking our choices are free and spontaneous. They’re not. The glaciers press and press, and unconsciously we bend to their will.

Not seeing ourselves, not knowing what bends us, we bump against people who’ve been shaped differently. There is conflict, so we pray for restoration. There is stagnancy, so we pray for change. There is suffering, so we pray for deliverance. And not missing a word of the unwritten lines between our prayers, the Spirit hovers over us. He is patient, unhurried, so still His presence goes unnoticed. Yet under the warmth of His wings, the glaciers begin to soften and crack. It is the process of years, this unmaking, this slow discovery that the ground beneath our feet is not solid earth. It is changeable. Increasingly, as the Spirit breathes, it is fluid.

Now the packed snows of ages move and flow, cutting paths across our souls. Glaciers shape continents, but so do rivers, and their work is clearly seen. It can be quick, violent. Rivers in flood can destroy, and water, this new living shape, can push, too. We watch in fear and wonder as the old beliefs emerge in trickles and waves. Emotions rise until we fear we will drown, till we stand on tiptoe, straining to catch a breath. But time passes, and the waters settle into their banks. Their murmuring, their familiar paths, no longer terrify.

It is the process of years, this unmaking, this slow discovery that the ground beneath our feet is not solid earth. It is changeable. Increasingly, as the Spirit breathes, it is fluid. Helena Sorensen

But even this is not enough. For rivers carve canyons, and though they are fluid, still they whisper the old lies, the old feelings. So the Spirit comes, and shines like the desert sun on the waters. He comes in tragedy and loss, in disillusionment. We feel the scorching heat and cry out, begging for healing, for peace, for sanctuary in the cool silence of the old ways. This is the crucial moment, when the sun lifts the waters. Within the elemental heart of them, everything speeds up, expands. What we believed was true before we knew Truth rises as steam, encircling us. In this last rush of panic, we see the heartache, the lies that shaped our souls, risen up before our eyes, full of energy, explosive and light, rising and rising. In this last moment, we know the names of things: anger, abandonment, despair. We know what they have done to us, and yet we see the Spirit’s work. Here, at last, is our chance to let go. We weep and exhale, and the waters rise, filling the sky. The invisible ice beneath us becomes the invisible vapor above—named, released into atmosphere, and rendered powerless. In letting go, we are freed.

To those who stand on what seem to be continents eternally fixed, I know how frail is your hope. I know how large the body of compacted snow, how difficult to see its movement, its shaping, how little you can imagine a different inner world. The Spirit hovers over you now, and in His breath is hope. His work is subtle. Watch for him. Listen for the sound of melting ice, of fat droplets falling and splashing. Before you know it, rivers will run.

To those who see the rush and flow of running water, I understand your fear. So much force, so much movement, looks like destruction. You do not recognize yourself, and things are changing, changing. This is what you’ve wanted; this is what you’ve prayed for. The raging waters are cutting a new path, a new world. Stand aside and watch it take shape. Do not be afraid.

To those who feel the rising heat, I recognize your panic. You are so close to healing and freedom. Never have the old lies been so evident. Never have they so obscured your vision. Take heart. Unclench your fists and exhale. The goodness of God has brought you to this place. Let the vapors rise, and breathe the free air.

Artwork credit: Melting Ice 3 by Lisa Lebofsky

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