My family rented a cottage near a lake each summer when I was a boy. After lunch each day, we’d walk down a road to the lake, peel off our shirts, kick off our flipflops and head for our assigned dock, ready to dive in.
The cold water jolted you the first time you went in. Usually, I needed time – and encouragement from those already in the water – to dive in.
Once wet, I didn’t want to get out.
That dock is a good metaphor for faith.
The Scriptures, traditions and liturgies of our various faiths are a platform to dive into the mystery, the presence, and the deep love of God. The platform always points us beyond itself.
Our faith isn’t about the dock, but where the dock wants to take us. Unfortunately, we can get so attached to the dock that we never dive from it. We never get wet.
Where the dock leads us
Instead, we stand on dock and speculate about the water below. We develop theological terms for the water and argue over which ones are most accurate.
Worse, we fall into the trap of fighting over who’s allowed on the dock and which diving forms are acceptable. Self-appointed guardians try to control access to the dock and reject anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria.
This is one main reason many people are turned off by organized religion – lots of standing around and arguing on the dock, not much actual swimming.
If you’re never going to get wet, what’s the point?
Jesus experienced the same thing. The self-appointed dock guardians of his time tried to keep certain people away – Samaritans, women, children, Gentiles, lepers, tax collectors, anyone who was different from them.
He ignored them, immersed himself in the water and invited others to join. If they were barred from the dock, he told them to wade in from the shore.
People recognized that unlike those who never left the dock, Jesus spoke with authority about the water. He was dripping wet! He swam the depths, experienced the currents, enjoyed the water’s delights.
He shared his experience of the water in such a way that others wanted to dive in, too. He spoke of living water available to everyone. Unlike the bone-dry people who never left the dock, he knew the water.
Everyone into the water
And he told us what it means to dive in.
See someone hungry? Dive into the moment and feed them.
Someone hurting? Dive into the situation and do something to help them heal.
See the injustice of someone being barred from the dock? Offer them a full and unencumbered path into the water.
See someone afraid of the water? Reach out a hand and offer to help them slowly wade in.
Swimming in this water means looking at ourselves, at others and the world through God’s eyes. We plunge into this water, and everything changes.
It doesn’t matter how we get into the water, only that we get wet. Once there, we let the living water comfort us, hold us, refresh us, and wrap us in its love.
And invite everyone else to swim with us, too.