Monday, January 29, 2018

Streams in a dry land

Morning Prayer. I am struck by this petition from Psalm 126:

“Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.”
(Psalm 126:4)

The watercourses in desert places run with water in their season. This prayer, then, recognises that life is not about an upward line of ever-increasing fortune—however we might define that—or even indefinitely continuous good fortune. It recognises, in the words we use in marriage vows, that there are better times and worse times, times when we are richer and times when we are poorer, times when we experience sickness and times when we experience health. It recognises that we cannot control our lives. It calls on God to restore in due course, perhaps even acknowledging that such recurring change feels overdue at present; but it is very different from a sense of entitlement.

Nonetheless, those who lived in the desert carved out cisterns in which to store water when it did flow. At Masada, for example, they carved out (by hand) cisterns as large as the nave of a cathedral (see photos). Blessings can be taken for granted; or, through the sometimes-hard work of thankfulness, we can create an expansive space in our hearts that enables those blessings to sustain us when we find ourselves in the worse times*.

*I think the key thing about digging cisterns—which is effort in response to grace—is that it takes a community, not just an individual or even a nuclear family.

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