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Faith as buoyancy

“Faith … is like floating in a deep ocean.”

~ Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity

Just before I started my junior year in high school, the company where my father worked was transferred from New York to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The summer we moved, my parents planned a trip to take in the highlights of the Southwest, territory then unknown to us. I imagine they thought the diversion would help assuage my grief at being separated 1500 miles from the friends of my youth,

One of our stops was Port Aransas, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. My parents left me to explore on my own. I walked down the gently sloped beach into the warm, seagreen expanse and descended into chin-deep depths. As I kicked my legs to tread water, I noticed I was not alone. Surrounding me were tiny silver fish, no bigger than my thumbnail. They leaped and rose in the air, sometimes tickling my arms as they cavorted.

My heart filled with joy. Ecstasy. In that moment, I was transported outside of myself to a place of utter bliss. The memory of that moment has remained vivid to this day. Over the years, I find I am most likely to re-experience a bliss akin to this when I am submerged in water.

Once a year my college roommate and I visit the shore town of Cape May, New Jersey. She lives in Kansas, far from the ocean, so we each take special delight in this annual excursion.

One year, while floating on my back in gently rolling waves, I experienced a sensation that caught my attention. With my ears underwater, the sound of my breathing was exaggerated. Conflated with the rhythmic collision of waves against the shore, it sounded as though the ocean itself was breathing. The experience was amplified by the fact that I was floating, suspended in water, feet far from the sea floor. This, too, was a transformative moment, one that I often conjure up at night when fears, sometimes real, often imagined, make it difficult for me to sleep.

When I got home from Cape May, I tried to replicate the feeling in our bathtub. Not the same.

In his book The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg describes faith as “buoyancy.” “A radical centering on God,” he writes, “leads to a deepening trust that transforms the way we see and live our lives.”

Since these experiences, I hear the Gospel text of Jesus walking on the water afresh. Jesus chides Peter and the disciples for their fear as he comes to them across the water. “You of little faith? Why do you doubt?”

What if I were able to defy the gravity of fear by trusting in God’s abiding Presence to buoy me up? How much more attentive could I be, moment by moment? How much freer to love?

I Corinthians 15:34

“Awaken to the holiness of life.” The Message

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