John Cobb wrote a book called Christ in a Pluralistic Age in which he proposed that Christians can hear the word "Christ" as a name, not only for the historical Jesus who lived in the past, but also for the living and enlivening presence of God in the world. The New Testament speaks of this presence as the Logos that was revealed but not exhausted in Jesus: the Word that was made flesh in his life, but that pre-existed his birth. This Logos does not control us or make everything alright. It does not and cannot prevent terrible tragedies. Its power is healing and whole-making, not dominating. But its healing capacity is all-faithful and all-abundant. The Logos is always spilling over us and spilling out, within us and around us; and it never gives up on us or on the world, even as we might give up on ourselves and the world. Its renewing spirit is not at all restricted to Christians or to people who name it "Christ." Many people of other faiths and no faith have known it and named it in other ways. It is pure gift, pure grace, pure spillway. Often we do not notice the spilling, especially in the dry times. But the Logos is spilling forth even in these times, not as the sadness we feel, but as the potential for healing that may well be growing during the sadness And when we feel its presence as the sadness subsides, we are amazed. In the essay below, Nita Gilger helps us notice spillway moments.
- Jay McDaniel, November, 2020
Christ as Spillway
By Nita Gilger
Thresholds. Transitions. True Self. Those are all part and parcel of moving through liminal places in life. It is those unpredictable, in-between times where great treasures can be discovered. That encourages me greatly because so much of life can feel like waiting for answers or dreams to come true. I wait for prayers and quests to be fulfilled or medical test results to arrive. I wait for a relationship to be repaired. I wait for the seasons to change. I wait for the pandemic to end. I wait for this time of political turmoil to be transformed with kindness, hope, and real solutions. The list could be much longer for most of us. Life can be so uncertain.
What if we could find blessings/treasures in those in-between spaces in our lives? It can be tempting to waste the "waiting" times. Simply said, we can get worn down. But if we pay attention we will most likely find many gifts and learning opportunities in those waiting seasons.
There comes a time of crossing the threshold, moving out of the liminal space to new beginnings. It is in these new beginnings that we can find a fleshed-out identity which is not only possible but sometimes necessary. When we come through tough times life, love can come spilling out into a drenching, welcoming blessing.
At the ranch we had a couple of spillways for the lake. These spillways were designed to channel the overflow of water when flooding storms arrived and the lake became too full. Without a place to spill over, the power of the water could compromise or even break the earthen dam. There was a beautiful rocky area and some large drop-offs going down into a secondary creek where the spillway water was channeled. It was enough of a drop-off that it would turn into a mini waterfall when the flood waters came surging over the spillway. It really was very beautiful.
That is a wonderful metaphor for living in the fullness of Christ to such an extent that the love and beauty of God spills over and out from our lives. In the 11 years of living at the ranch, I probably witnessed water rushing over the spillway in full force only about 6 or 7 times. During drought times, you could even walk across the lake (normally 20 feet in its deeper places). There were many, many hot, dry, long summer days when NO rain would fall and the dust, wind, and heat would almost overtake us.
So it is with life. Not every day is a spillway kind of day. There are dry, dusty times in which we struggle. There are times when we wait for the rain. We hope for the rain. We long for the rain. Those times can be low energy times with hope diminished. We do other tasks in the dry periods like clearing brush or picking up debris that may be in the lake area exposed by drought.
Those dry times when the rain simply will not form can still hold treasures. Dry times can be some of our best teachers. And as the droplets of rain begin to fall from a dark, ready cloud, so our lives can be refreshed and overflowing. Getting to spillway moments can be like crossing a threshold. When we become equipped, ready, and willing, the lessons of the drought will teach us. Like the flooded, overflowing lake we can become renewed and changed. We can create and offer beauty as our love and life rush out to new places. What I saw in the lake, in the floods, and in the natural beauty surrounding it was that all things are connected. When I take time to look, I can see plants coming to life from the long, thirsty ground. I can see fish excitedly jumping out of the new depth of the water. I can see the deep, amazing colors of the boulders that now sparkled wet in the sunlight. The colors were there all along but when the water partnered with the rocks, they came alive in new ways.
Prayer: Lord of the rain and drought, walk with me to make a life that is full of delight in living. May I see anew your love of me and all creation in such a way that this life-giving love spills out, spills over, and spills forth to become a blessing to all. Amen.