Thursday, July 08, 2004


I was watching, yesterday, my five-year-old daughter in her first swim class. She was lying on her back in the pool, the instructor was teaching her the proper movements of her legs and arms. I can see the look of concentration on my daughter's face as she floats, willing her legs to make the unusual motions, like a frog, that the teacher is asking for. It's so much easier for her to kick and dog paddle with abandon and, now and then, she reverts to this with apparent joy on her face rather than concentration. In the end, of course, she'll be the better swimmer for learning these methods and skills, but the better-swimmer-joy is far off, invisible to her, and all she sees seems to be removing the fun from the water.

So, too, as I come into my new faith through RCIA and reading, do I miss the freedom, the abandon, of the Protestant faith. How much easier it is to accept the life Jesus led as a symbol, to believe his last supper is a symbol, to throw out most of the lessons of the Old Testament as being superceded by Love. How much easier still to have the modern idea of Faith in Nature, Faith in good intentions, Faith in your own internal discovery of God as equivalent to century upon century of Christian experience and thought.

I was reading C.S. Lewis who covered this well. He wrote of how a person on the shore of the ocean, the warm sand beneath their feet, the ocean breeze fanning their hair, the smell of salt and sea all around them, can feel that sense of awe and wonder that is God. He wrote that religion wants to take that awe and wonder of the ocean and replace it with a map, developed through centuries of experience by sailors and navigators. Now who in their right mind would ever get the same sense of God out of a two dimensional map that they get out of a three dimensional, five senses day at the beach? No one... but suppose you want to go to the other side of the ocean? Suppose you want to know more about the ocean that what lies immediately in front of you... you need a map. In fact, if you find yourself lost, a map is a blessing.

So, here I am, learning my strokes, studying my map... late every service in crossing myself, forgetting to genuflect, forgetting the words to the Invitation to Prayer,

Priest: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be
acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

All: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands
for the praise and glory of his name, for our good,
and the good of all his Church.

and knowing, intellectually, that the words and motions I'm learning will serve me well when I find myself in water over my head, when I find that watching the sunrise doesn't quite help me remain on the straight and narrow road, when I find I need a map to make sense of the world. Lately, that better-swimmer-joy has seemed so far off... but like my daughter, I'm learning.

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