Sunday, June 3, 2018
Troubling the Water
Tracy K. Smith, 2018 poet laureate of the United States, seeks to raise national awareness for a greater appreciation of reading and writing poetry.
Tracy is using her stipend of $35,000 to visit rural areas where most writers are unlikely to travel. She says, "I want to just go to places where writers don't usually go, where people like me don't usually show up and say, 'Here are some poems. Do they speak to you? What do you hear in them?'"
The cover story of the April 15, 2018, New York Times magazine features Smith. "The meditative state of mind a poem induces, she believes, can be a 'rehumanizing force,' an antidote to the din of daily life, in which our phones continuously buzz with news alerts perfectly algorithmed to reinforce our biases."
One of Tracy's Favorite Poems
One of the poems she likes to read to the audience is "Wade in the water/God's gonna trouble the water." God's 'troubling the water' is a reference to a line in the gospel of John 5:1-7, testifying to divine healing. Sick people are gathered around the pool at Bethesda.
She explains, "For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water. Whosoever the first after the troubling of the water steeped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. Trouble on the surface of the water is a sign of God's presence."
My Experience with John 5:1-7
I've been swimming laps at least five days a week since 1975. Mike and I started swimming when he was a seminary student at Duke University Divinity School.
Through the years swimming became a place of silent worship as well as a great way to exercise.
When I studied John 5:1-7 a few years ago, I decided to begin by taking my hand and "stirring the water" before entering the pool, asking God to bless my time and speak to me while I swim.
Over the years, swimming back and forth from one side of the pool to the other, I've received insights and perspectives for my life as well as images to draw. I've felt God hold me close as I worked through anger, and resentment and dealt with other topics of concern.
Afterwards, I get out of the pool and shake off the water that still coats me with God and helps me emerge with a soul cleansed and refreshed.
God Still Troubles The Water Today
God still troubles the water today, with words for the poet, Tracy Smith, with insights for me when I swim, and for others who hear God's voice.
1. In what circumstances have you experienced "troubling the water" - God's presence in life?
2. How can you "trouble the water" for others?
Prayer: God, you "trouble our lives" every moment we breathe as your presence is always available no matter what is happening. We don't need water for "your troubling" to happen, for wherever we are, you are. Your troubling blesses our lives and keeps us close to you. Amen.