Water. So ordinary yet capable of so much meaning. And some nights, you feel it deep in your soul.
There’s a little spring that’s sometimes dry, at the base of a small valley on the trail I frequent. Tonight it’s gushing, and I’m not sure why because we haven’t had much rain lately, but it doesn’t seem to matter because it’s going. I like to lean on the weathered wood of the small bridge above this tiny pool and soak up this sweet sound. I close my eyes and focus on the sound of the streaming water, it’s crispness and constancy; the aliveness of it, with its nourishing power. I feel this as the power of Living Water, of the spirit of God that lives within me and every believer.
Next I’m on to the vernal pond. These are pools of water that appear in springtime as snow and wetness melt from the winter. There’s not much to it here this year, but it’s here, and it’s poised to become home to new life with springtime’s frogs and salamanders. I can’t wait for the sound of spring peepers, the clarion call for the new season. Tonight’s it’s just absolute stillness, as if a giant sheet of glass was plopped down into the middle of the woods. The reflection is absolutely perfect, and I stare deeply into it, as if another world, more perfect and unmarred by this one’s faults, is pulling me in. These still waters refresh my soul and point me to the truer life to come.
Now I’m pulled to the water by the shore, where creek meets river meets Chesapeake Bay. Out on a pier, surrounded, I sit transfixed. You can get lost in these waves, watching the blues and oranges crash into each other without losing their color. The gentle rolls of golden waves wash a sense of peace over me, relief for the anxiety gripping my body, slowly releasing me of the tightness like a vice on my chest. All the talk of AI art lately, yet I know this wonder could never be recreated by a machine. This beauty and delight are waves of grace that bathe me with peace.
I’m drawing on these nature memories a few days later as the season of repentance begins. Shame can creep up, or smack me down hard. I’m struggling with my faults and my failures. And the slaying of false views that once afflicted me.
The idea of confession – of facing my mistakes and my mess-ups, or to put it more bluntly, my pride and my sin – used to frighten me. I harbored cartoonish views of God, that I had to be perfect to be accepted by Him. I’m flipping through some old journals and see the phrase “crippling perfectionism.” Ouch – it used to be so oppressive. I’m learning to break free.
I think these experiences with water are helping me. Maybe that sounds crazy? There’s so much more to it, too – that’ll take a book. But I’m learning about God’s love in creation too. I’m learning to simply receive His love – glorious sunsets – which this night also turned into, have also been teaching me that. His living water, the restoration from still waters, and His sweet waves of grace, are all changing me.
Perfectionism is something from the pit of hell – because it cannot exist. And it’s not necessary for love. We may think that based on human relationships, but it’s not God. God is absolute love – when we come to Him, he receives, and he gives love, pure, truly perfect, love. He empathizes, he comforts, he forgives.
I don’t have to hide my shame.
I don’t have to hide my mistakes.
I don’t have to hide my fears.
God welcomes it all. He welcomes me, the imperfect person I am.
I don’t have to pretend to be some “perfect person” faking it through life. No, I actually will find the most abundant life possible here on this earth, by bringing my whole, broken self to God. As David Benner says, “We do not find our true self by seeking it. Rather, we find it by seeking God…There is no true life apart from relationship to God.”
There is meaning in the water – when it symbolizes the deep love of Christ. Not a distant judge looking to condemn me for the next 40 days. But a gentle loving Father who doesn’t need me to be perfect, who just wants me to come to Him.
God is a God of love, and his arms are open.
“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Find nourishment, friend, in the Living Water of His love.
2 responses to “Forsaking Perfectionism: The Living Water of God’s Love”
Wonderful words, Bethany! Very inspirational. Your photos are fantastic as well. Regards, Walter
Thanks so much Walter! Appreciate it!