I have always been drawn to the water. The infinite possibilities of an empty horizon, and the wash of air surrounding my body with its humid embrace speak to me of prayer.
It seemed right, and a good and joyful thing to go down to the lake before our summer music camp began, to swim away the stress and trepidation; and to pray in joy, effervescence to share with the children who would come to us this week. On my back, I was overwhelmed by a freedom of movement that the winter had sorely constricted. To the east, the sun was so low and impressive that I had to swim with eyes closed. My body beat out a rhythm of praise, and was answered with a peace that passed understanding.
But as soon as I left the water, at a remove from all of my stuff, I was swarmed by black, biting flies. These are the creatures of my nightmares, and my one true phobia, and they were, of a sudden, all over me.
In the moment, I realized a choice. I could run back into the lake, and remain in a state of suspended buoyancy; or I could make my way back through the cloud of flies to grab my gear and get on with the busy day ahead.
It felt like a metaphor.
Prayer, it seems, is not an inoculation against evil, nor a lasting panacea – at least some of my good shoulder work was undone in the subsequent flailing at flies. Sometimes, it even seems to be the way into trouble, inviting challenge that would have been avoided by a simple ignorance of bliss.
And yet, it is worth it. The glimpse, for a moment, of a peace that passes understanding cannot be eked out beyond its own visitation; but still its glory continues to resound in silent ripples as the necessary day turns and the love of God runs in deep currents just beneath the surface.
The Reverend Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie.