Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (2 Kings 2:19-22) transports me to the crazy world of anxiety dreams, this particular one filling my mind in the early hours this morning. Before going to be bed, several things conspired to provide the imagery. When I got to the ICU to spend a few hours with Carolyn yesterday evening, I met a good friend of hers who is an alternative healing practitioner. She was leaving the hospital to go to Greensboro for a Springsteen concert. Later in the evening, before I left, I read some poetry to Carolyn, from her friend Wendell Berry (he wrote the forward to one of her books). When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. And then when I got to my abode for the night, the home of good friends Joe and Eva Clontz, Joe described some of his golf excursions with me, particularly a Robert Trent Jones course in Alabama that is filled with water hazards. So here’s the dream: I’m playing golf on this course, and hit a ball into what looks to be a pond of still water; there’s even a heron feeding there. I wade into the pond to retrieve the ball, only to find that it’s not a pond; the still surface is masking a raging river underneath, and the current pulls me under. I make my way toward the bank, only to find the water getting deeper and deeper. Springsteen’s screaming voice is ringing in my ears – There’s a river runs through this valley, Cold and deep and black, Comin’ like a tombstone shadow across my back, Trouble river, six foot high and rising Trouble river, I can’t keep from cryin’, I woke up last night shakin’, Shakin’ from a dream, That all I seen was smiling faces staring back at me. Carl Jung would have had a field day with that. Go deeper, I can hear him saying.
Jung did have a field day with the Bible, and I’ll bet he loved today’s Passage, with its fantastic dream-like qualities. In 4 short verses, we learn that the people are situated in a land where the water is dangerous, and the land can’t produce. They go to the prophet, Elisha, who works his mojo on the bad water, with a bowl of salt. Trouble River becomes salt cured, or salt healed, pure and healthy. And the water remained healthy, to this day, the story says. Life flows on in endless song.
I love that in the midst of chronicling the Kings and wars and conquests and sin and judgment, the Bible gives us these dreamy vignettes, archetypal stories that speak to our need to go deeper in our spirituality. Faith communities and religious traditions are notorious for organizing themselves to the point of deadening the water of life. Excessive attention to doctrinal conflicts, fundamentalisms of every stripe, ambitions to power, materialism, superficial programming, these are all toxins that get straight-piped into the great river of faith and kill it, making the waters dangerous as well as unproductive. Thank God for the prophets, who embody Jesus’ call to be salt of the earth, whose seasoning power is curative and healing for faith communities and traditions. I am glad that when I do get pulled into the anxious currents of my life, I’m carrying Wendell Berry and Sprinsteen and Elisha and a host of other salty prophets with me, to bring those waters to life. I’ll take a bowl-full of their poetry any day.
How about you? Where does this Promise Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with your friends on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc.