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The Light on the Water

A Quiet Easter Epiphany

Written By Molly Wolf

Light on waterWhat drew me down to the water's edge was the light. There had been enough of a southwesterly wind to give the lake a bit of a ruffle, and the sun, even partly veiled by cloud wisps, was lighting the water in a broad strip of dappled brilliance, leading the eye out into broader, deeper waters.

So I found a spot for my car and walked down past the limestone houses,
around the bridge and past where the ducks hang out, along by the old pier, to the tiny shingle beach, braving the wind, which was whippy and not quite cold.

The light moved as I did, naturally. You pursue light on water, but you don't actually ever catch it; children learn that one very early. But at the shingle beach, the light seemed to stop, and so did I, and looked out at it, the glow of the water against the softness of sky.

It came back to me then, a certainty that I'd lost for a while…that I thought I might have lost for good, in fact: the certainty of God's ultimate victory over all the forces that divide us from love. I'd gotten sadly cynical about love of late; I'd seen it bash itself like this water against the rocks, making no apparent difference, retreating in what looked like defeat, into the silence of a death.

I'd seen how spirituality can become a way of evading one's own real issues, how Godwardness can actually be a full-out flight from painful realities. And I'd retreated myself into the silence ofnot unbelief or disbelief, but belief suspended in the chaos and pain. I had found myself retreating into a silence devoid of any whisper of God.

Yet here was the light on the water, no longer moving, still not reachable, but there. Just for a moment, I knew that, however little it looked that way to me, I too was standing in the same light. Just for a moment, I knew that while I felt like a darkness absorbing the light, to God I was water reflecting it in glory.

The wind died down for a moment, and just for that moment, I felt all the warmth of the April sun. I thought how quiet God's victories might be. Maybe for some, there's the glorious knock-you-off-your-donkey experience, but that's never been my way; always for me, it's not the rainbow but the groundwater quietly seeping up from sources I can't begin to imagine. 

I thought of the quiet sense of right that comes in the stillness left by the clamor and shrillness of wrong, of the painful, healing silence that enters when the shouting falters, exhausted, of the emptying-out that leaves you not lonely but peaceably alone.

After the riotous crowds, first adoring, then hostile, after the screams and the suffering, there's the quiet of the tomb, and that looks at first like utter defeat. But then, in the deepest stillness that comes before the first birds wake, there's the soundless rise and fall of the chest, the whoosh of blood, the whispered singing of synapses. Only the smallest sounds as the shroud comes off and he sits up, swinging around, setting his feet noiselessly on the cool stone, that neither cries nor shatters but silently takes his weight.

I'm fasting from joy this Easter, turning my back on proclamation and alleluias and trumpets and the loud singing of joyful hymns; instead, I'm feasting on silence, the quiet steady lap of ruffled water, the silence of this light, the only sound that of the wind. For here's where I can sense the real victory, the one that endures: that love will have its way in the end, and that “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

Maybe not today or tomorrow, maybe not even next year. But inevitably, when God and I are ready.

Excerpted from WHITE CHINA
by Molly Wolf (April 2005, $16.95, Paper). Use
by permission of Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Imprint.

Copyright ©2005 Molly Wolf

White China: Finding the Divine in the Everyday by Molly Wolf 

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