The Bonhoeffer Project Reading: Visualizing Spiritual Practices – Life in the River
Imagine a river, wild and rushing. Its roar prevents you from hearing much of anything and its currents create huge sprays of water pouring over you. This river represents modern life, hurried and loud. The easiest thing in the world is to be swept along with its current, just trying to survive, and then to arrive at river’s end asking, “Where did the time go? How did it go so fast?”
Indeed, imagine that you are being swept down the river, but in front of you the current’s flow is interrupted by a huge boulder. Water rushes on either side of the great rock, but a dry space, untouched by the water’s stream, has been created behind it. At first you are frightened by the boulder and by what might happen if you run into it, so you swim to the side, trying to avoid it. But then you realize that the boulder might offer you something that the river never can, since the river never lets you rest. So you start swimming toward it. With some serious effort, you are able to exit the wild rush of water and stand in the dry area. You are no longer knocked about. You can breathe easily. Miraculously, as you step into the space, the roar of the river somehow recedes. You can hear your own thoughts connecting with the quiet in a new way.
When you enter back into the river, things are different. The current doesn’t seem as strong. Maybe you’ve just become a better swimmer? The roar of the river still seems quieter, too. And your heart is encouraged when you see another boulder in front of you. You repeat the process, finding that when you engage the waters again, the current seems weaker still. Now rather than being afraid of the boulders or wanting to avoid them, you are, with gladness, on the lookout for the next one.
In this little parable, the boulder represents a spiritual practice. A practice creates a space that we can enter for the transformation of our soul; it’s a space in which we encounter Jesus and are empowered to live in a new way. Through the space created by spiritual practices, we are literally able to receive grace and power from on high so that we can be in the water in a new way.