I am fascinated by small bodies of water.
There’ve been a lot of rainy days recently, as New England springs are known to have. Glancing out my window between classes this week my eyes searched for a puddle somewhere on the sidewalk below. For although I might not be able to see light raindrops themselves falling outside, I knew that if a puddle had ripples painting their story across its surface then I would know of their existence.
There’s a small pond on the edge of campus that I drive by whenever I leave. A fountain sits in the middle, disturbing the water with its constant stream and splashes. But on the outer edge, where the water is still, a log extends itself above the lily pads and placid surface. Lately, while driving past, I’ve spotted small black disks sitting on the log; I cannot help but conclude that they are turtles basking in the sun. Whenever I walk by, however, they’re nowhere to be found- as though there are a million mysteries that hide themselves from me the moment I become aware of their existence.
When I first arrived at seminary, I was cautioned by numerous sources not to “allow seminary to become your cemetery”. This pun-ish phrase was the means by which our administration, faculty and peers alerted us rookie theologians to the keen and prevalent possibility of, within the study of the God, losing our actual faith in God; missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
I remember thinking then, and sometimes thinking now, that in order for me to lose my faith, I would have to have found it.
For faith has never presented itself to me as something subject to or capable of my articulation. I cannot tell you why I breathe the way I do, any more than I could tell you why I am convinced of God and his omnipresence, omnipotence and all those other terms I flash up on the felt story-boards of my heart, like a four-year-old in Sunday school shouting out all the answers. I am able to confess that I believe these words to be true; now and then I even see small sparks of them in the world around me. But, for the most part, they are mysterious and slip out of my sight before I can confirm their existence, like turtles on the other side of the pond.
C.S. Lewis once stated that he believed in Christianity as he believed that the sun had risen, not only because he saw it but because by it he could see everything else. I glance outside on a rainy day and though I may not see the sun, I do see a puddle on the sidewalk. And the ripples are flowing and dancing.
It seems to me that God’s existence is not found in the beauty of things I can understand but in the quiet stillness of puddles. I wish I where different; I wish my faith were as articulate and brilliant as that of so many before me. But it’s not. And I don’t know, as the poet Hannah Faith Notess lamented, why God touches down on some of us and not on others.
The voice of an angel withheld Abraham from slaying Isaac; Job received everything he had in double portion. And yet His own son, God did not spare. Sometimes I think of Notess’ confession and I wonder, constantly, which category I fall into: the some, or the others.
But all the things I cannot see are the compelling mysteries that keep me searching again for more. And so, if I had to put my faith to words, I would proclaim that I believe in the God of the puddles, small lakes and other bodies of water that surround my every existence. I believe in the God who is and breathes like the mist on a cloudy day. I believe in a God whose goodness falls like spring’s rain. And I believe in this goodness even though, sometimes, the rain does not fall.
Because sometimes, when it does, I still choose to remain inside, watching it fall and telling its story to the puddles, lakes and ponds I see from within. Sometimes I stay inside rather than racing out, spreading my arms and letting it wash over me.
But some days, when it the rain has finished, I go outside and I take a moment to witness my own insecure eyes in the puddle’s reflection. In that moment, all it would take was a single miraculous raindrop to fall and it would recast me on the canvas of my own faith.
Sometimes it falls, but mostly the turtles slip back into the pond before I am within reach. And I am left believing in what I hope to see. Someday.