River of life

Adapted from Richard Rohrs, “Trust the River”, blog post.

Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much greater than the stories we tell ourselves or one another, which are often less than half true and based on hurts and unconscious biases. These stories do not define who we are, and are not where our big life can happen. Instead, our real life is part of a much larger stream called God, as described in John 4:10-14 and Revelation 22:1-2 as “flowing water,” “a spring inside you,” and a “river of life.”

I believe that faith is the ability to trust God’s providential love. We need to trust in the visible embodiment of this love (the Son), the flow of it (the Holy Spirit), and the source itself (the Father). This is a process that should be allowed and enjoyed, rather than changed, coerced, or improved. This can be difficult, especially when we’re hurting. When anxiety sets in, I often find myself trying to quickly make things right, losing my ability to be present, and becoming overly focused in my head, not feeling or experiencing things in my heart and body. When this happens, I am orientated towards goals and making things happen, pushing or even trying to create my own river, instead of realizing that the Big River is already flowing through me and I am only one small part of it.

Faith does not need to push the river, for it can trust that the river is already flowing. This is the essence of divine providence – no need to fear. God is actively giving us the Holy Spirit, as Jesus made clear in Luke 11:13: “If you, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit?”.

Simone Weil said, “It is grace that forms a void inside of us and it is also grace that fills that void.”

Simone Weil said, “It is grace that forms a void inside of us and it is also grace that fills that void.” Grace leads us to a state of emptiness, inviting us to experience a momentary sense of meaninglessness, prompting the questions: “What is it all for? What does it all mean?” Without grace, we cannot enter into this necessary void; without grace, the void will remain unfilled. All we can do is keep our hands cupped and open, and even this is grace. But we must want grace and recognize our need for it.

Consider asking yourself regularly, “What am I afraid of? Does it truly matter?

In the long run, will it make a difference? Is it worth holding onto?”

Grace can lead us into such fears and emptiness, and grace alone can fill them, provided we are willing to remain in the unknown. It requires a “negative capability” that God often utilizes. We mustn’t try to find an answer too quickly or find peace too soon. We all want to have an answer that will ease our worries and settle the dust. To stay in God’s hands, to trust, often means letting go of our attachments to feelings—which will eventually pass away anyway. People of strong faith develop a high tolerance for ambiguity and come to understand that it is only the small self that requires certitude or perfect order at all times. The Godself is perfectly content in the River of Mystery.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 46, 53, 142-144.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply