by Laurie Gudim
Once I had a dream, one of the Big Dreams of my life, in which I was standing in line with a bunch of other people waiting for a huge woman with a ladle to give us water from a giant barrel. The understanding was that this was very special water, holy water, and we had only this one, single opportunity to receive it. There were so many of us that the line inched forward very, very slowly.
As I finally drew near the woman with the ladle I suddenly realized that I had nothing with which to receive the water. Everyone else had a bucket or a jar, a pot or a glass – something appropriate for carrying water. I had nothing. I also realized that if I left the line to look for a container it would take too long, and I would lose out on the opportunity to get this most special gift. I decided that I would just cup my hands and receive what water I could that way. It wouldn’t be much, but it would at least be something.
And that’s what I did. When it was my turn to get water, I cupped my hands and waited for the woman to pour a little into them. But she surprised me. She grabbed me by the back of the neck and yanked me toward her. Then she poured water right into the top of my head. I was the water jar. When she was finished, she pushed me away a little and grinned. “Now,” she said, “you will be my aquarium.”
We are all water jars, hollow vessels filled with God’s lively, life giving gifts. Our life-spirit, our sense of meaning, our talents, our urge to creativity and our passion do not come from our ego-personalities. We cannot make them. We walk around full of God, slopping over, yearning to pour ourselves out. Being an aquarium is a continual process of emptying. And the more we do so, the more we are filled up again.
In a time of danger it is hard to imagine that this largess is not only possible but the very fabric of our existence. We tend to curl in on ourselves and conjure up scarcity. We cup our hands, expecting only a little water. We invent ourselves as isolated individuals, solitary castles needing to defend our walls. How can we give joyously when we are so beset?
But Jesus, who talked so confidently about the rich abundance of God, was an oppressed man in an occupied country. He walked barefoot on the earth and had no home.
We are made by and for God, and God is part of our very structure. Recognizing this, we do not need to be miserly. It is natural and right that we should upend ourselves all the time. God created us to empty ourselves like pitchers over and over again. That is our nature. That is what fills us up again and gives us joy. We are not meant for security, we are meant for love.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.