Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Where Water Once Was
Recently we hiked out into the Badlands of Alberta. Although that day it was dry and dusty, all around me were evidences that at some point in the not too distant past there had been small rivers of water flowing down the clay hills into the dirt.
As I think about my life now that I have entered what Eugene Peterson calls “the exile of moving to a new place,” I compare it to the rugged landscape of the Badlands. Not that I consider Edmonton a bad land—on the contrary, there are many things that are lively and interesting in this city. But for me, leaving an established identity connected with community, vocation, and even geography was leaving behind something like a lush and growing forest in which I was comfortably rooted. And now I find myself in an unfamiliar place, rootless and disconnected. I can either spend my days endlessly sighing and looking back at where I came from or find a way to grow through the experience.
In Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson describes this possibility of growth: “None of these acts of limitation or confinement in itself produces a deepened and more authentic life, but they provide the conditions that make it possible” (p. 90). So there I am with the question: Is the seemingly inhospitable environment of the Badlands actually the best place for growth? Is this time in my life, with so much more silence than I was used to, a time where I can look deeper into the person I am and find a way to live more authentically?
I believe it is, but I also know that life in the Badlands can be tough and no one really wants to stay there. So while I try to grow new life, while I nurture within me the gifts of patience and acceptance, all I can do is set firmly in my mind the image of places where water once was. And depending on the day, I may be filled with sadness—thinking of how much I wish the water were still there, or filled with hope—knowing that someday it will be back. I stand where water once was. And in the tension between sadness and I hope, I live.