I’ve been playing in the mud this spring. Partly because spring is always mud season on Prince Edward Island, and partly because it’s good therapy.
At the end of January I was in a car accident with my daughter. We hit black ice driving home one afternoon, and flew off the road. Thankfully, a huge snowbank cushioned our rear end impact, and we walked away unhurt. Or so I thought.
A few days later, strange things started happening in my body – headaches, severe nausea, strange pains, and fatigue. Almost three weeks after the accident I was diagnosed with a concussion and whiplash, and told to expect a couple more weeks before I was feeling back to normal.
But the normal never came. My symptoms got worse. My visual system started shutting down, and I felt increased pressure in my head. I couldn’t look at a screen without pain in my eyes. I couldn’t read to my kids. I couldn’t drive. I could barely get up to feed myself, let alone my family. I was spending day after day laid low in bed. Finally I called my doctor in tears, asking when I was supposed to start getting better.
That desperate phone call started off a process of therapy with a concussion and neuro treatment specialist. Now a few months down the path I’ve made major progress, but it’s been an up and down journey. Some days I feel almost normal. Other days I’m knocked back with an unexpected setback that feels like a punch in the gut. I’ve had to be ok with receiving help from others. I’ve had to let go of many of my ideals and plans for this season. To be ok with “failure.” My family has been an amazing support, but it hurts my heart not to be physically able to be the mom I want to be for my kids all the time. The brain is a fascinating and fragile creation. I’ve got a new appreciation for both the complexity and the limitations of the human body.
And so, I’ve been playing in the mud.
When the weather warmed up, getting outside for a few minutes was an absolute sanity saver. I needed the movement and fresh air, and walking didn’t aggravate my symptoms. I didn’t always go far. Sometimes I didn’t have the energy. But one of my favourite places to go is a patch of scraggly woods at the edge of our property. There’s a clearing there, part of an old roadway, which has always been particularly damp. Back in the fall, I hand dug a ditch to try and help the water drain properly. When spring came, the area once again became a soggy mess of mud and stagnant puddles.
The other day, I took our trusty spade down to the clearing to see if I could rearrange those clumps of thick red clay for better drainage. Leaves and other forest debris have clogged the channel, and in one place it is caved in altogether. The mud is unbelievably heavy, and I work slowly so I don’t strain my neck. Patches of green moss and ferns are popping up. The birds keep me company, mostly sparrows and chickadees, darting overhead and puzzling at my not-so-graceful activity.
Out here, my brain seems to relax, and I enjoy this grown-up version of making mud pies. I shove the spade under the clods of clay, shifting and scooping, turning and tamping. My boots are soon coated with a thick layer of oozy mud. Finally, the channel is freed, and I watch the water rush and swirl, shaping its stream around the sticks and small rocks, looking for the lowest point.
My mind meanders along with the ripples of water. What is it about moving water that is so satisfying to watch? It’s like it was made to be in motion, catching the light, creating music, drawing us into its liquid dance. When it moves, it’s alive.
My thoughts turn to the story in the gospel of John where Jesus meets a woman at a well in the heat of the day. The woman is a Samaritan, and the Jews and Samaritans have been at odds with each other for generations. When Jesus asks her for a drink, since He doesn’t have anything to draw from the deep well with, she is surprised, suspicious even. What is this Jewish man thinking? Doesn’t he know better than to talk to a Samaritan, and a woman at that?
But Jesus’ question starts a conversation, in which He reveals both the thirst of her own soul and His identity as the Source of all she is seeking. He has a gift – “living water” – a type of water that doesn’t just fill temporarily, but overflows, and opens up a spring to eternal realities. Jesus later reveals that this water is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself, God’s very presence which would be given to those who believe in Him (John 7:38-39).
What low point was the Samaritan woman at, that hot afternoon at the well? Did she feel jaded? Powerless? Taken advantage of? An outsider? A failure? Cracked with shame? Cut off from promise? Desperate?
How many times do we find ourselves laid low by these very things? And we think our lowliness somehow disqualifies us from the abundant life we’ve heard of.
I lean on the spade and watch the little dancing stream find its way to the low ground. And the truth strikes me breathless, here in the ditch – water always finds the lowest point. Living water always finds you at your lowest point.
There’s no such thing as too low. Jesus’ words to the outcast woman broke something open within her parched heart, and she was one of the first to recognize Jesus for who He was as Messiah, one of the first to get a taste of His renewing life.
This living water is for all of us. Our lows may look different – a physical ailment, family crisis, a trauma we never expected, or maybe just the steady drain of life’s demands, day after day, year after year. We all find ourselves in places that we can’t seem to lift ourselves out of.
But the good news is for just such places. The Holy Spirit can soak and settle into all those cracks of need, brokenness, and desire. He can quench the thirst we are too afraid to even acknowledge. Jesus’ water can reach that place in your soul. The Holy Spirit is the living stream of life that Jesus promised – more than a pat answer, a product, or a painkiller – but a presence.
A presence, with you in the low. By nature, He seeks the low. He loves the low. He delights in throwing Himself down the muddy channel to fill the waiting ditch!
I take a deep breath, stretching my muscles and inhaling the forest air. I’ve done enough digging for the day, and should head back to the house for a rest. But I feel refreshed.
Before I leave, I bend and dip my fingers in the water. It feels alive. I can’t help but smile, here in the mud. And the joy wells up, from deep within. Living water.
If you’d like to experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit this spring, perhaps you’d be interested in the new Pentecost Morning Time Plans I’ve created? These plans were dreamt up during my recovery time, and with the help of some of my amazing friends, they are ready just in time for Pentecost!
Enrich your family life or personal devotions with an exploration and celebration of Pentecost. Immerse yourself in the beauty of Scripture, music, art, poetry, and prayer. Think of it as a week-long renewal in the life-giving reality of the Holy Spirit. It is my hope that these plans will be a channel of blessing to you and your family!
(Pentecost Sunday is May 23rd this year. We’ll be using the plans the week after Pentecost Sunday, but feel free to use any time you’d like a week of Holy Spirit refreshment!)