The Thickness of Water

A personal reflection on how water brings together people from different places and backgrounds.

The Thickness of Water

A personal reflection on how water brings together people from different places and backgrounds.

Extra wide ocean

Contributed by: Tim Moore

Why is it that when I stand at the edge of the sea, my life immediately becomes introspective?  Is it the external vastness, the yawning expanse that prompts such internal thoughts?  Is it some complex equating of infinity with eternity, merging the sea's infinite stretch toward the distant horizon with my pondering eternal truths or hopes or fears deep in my heart?  Any answer I might give, here, invariably lacks precision.  My only certain answer to these questions is that, without fail, the sea makes me think.

Last summer, I laid my head on a pillow beneath a window that famed the North Sea, a sea that even during the summer looks cold and distant and brooding.  There it washed, each night, as it has since before the first eyes looked upon it. Those waters wash away time, linking past with present.  Those waters also erode space, dissolving miles that separated friends and colleagues.  For a short moment in that ocean's memory, a new community formed, a community drawn from continents washed by waters from that same sea and washed by other seas, a community defined by difference and distance yet drifting together because of another body of water.

I was staggered by the distance and the diversity that defined us. While only a few dozen, we were conservative and liberal, Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox, North American and African and European and Asian and islanders, old and young and in-between, gay and straight, clerical and non, cloistered and secular.  While an amazing mixture, in some respects we were exactly what I should have expected. We were all washed toward each other by the waters of baptism, drawn together through this ritual.

As the apostle Paul reminds his readers in his letter to the Galatians, water both dissolves and connects.  Their baptisms have made a new people, washing away race and class and gender.  In dissolving, those waters have also solidified a new humanity, a notion of humanity that forms all into one, irrespective of status or stature or station.  Water has the perplexing capacity to draw the high to the low and the far to the near and the disparate to the desperate, renewing a kind of people evidentiary of a basic, primordial promise, a promise that we are all one people sharing a water-washed world.  In remembering our commonality evidenced in the gift of water, our imaginations are sufficiently shaped slowly to wade through a vision of humanity incrementally seen-seen first in one people and then in all people-a vision of our shared life, a sustaining mutual need for each other.

Water creates.  Water shapes.  Water sustains.  Water connects.  Water renews.  Water reimagines.

In all that we do, in all that we see, in all the ways we live, may the waters wash over us all, mysteriously dissolving while forming.

Rev. Dr. Tim Moore is Dean of the Chapel, Minister to the College and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Young Harris College in Georgia. 

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