You know how sometimes you know what something means because you are certain of what it does not mean? God's gonna trouble the waters. That's one of those `wonder what that means' phrases for me.
Late one Monday night, a couple of weeks ago I was the last person to swim in the East Lake YMCA pool. When I went over to thank the lifeguard for being there, she told me that the Y would be closing indefinitely the next day. I was bummed when I went into the locker room to get dressed. Probably not in my best emotional place, when the only other person in the locker room started up a conversation. At first, we were just talking about the virus and how odd everything felt. Then she said, "You know God sent this virus to purify the world." Nope. Nope. Nope. I didn't get into an argument, but I did tell her that I didn't believe a word she was saying.
I knew what I believed because I didn't believe that. Soon after that “Wade in the Water” started singing over and over in my head. Slow and steady, deep and sure, God’s gonna trouble the waters.
Last night I was zooming with my buddies in Booth 25 and I talked to them about the song. Theological scholar, Susie (AKA, “let me google that”) came up with two ideas about what God’s troubling could mean. The first was from the story in the gospel of John chapter 5. Here we meet a blind man waiting to enter the water at the healing pool at Bethesda. The story said that healing happened when the water was stirred. “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease s/he had. (5:4)” Susie’s second explanation was that as African American slaves were escaping, they would run to the nearest creek or river and walk across. By doing this, with God’s troubling the water, the dogs who were chasing them would lose their scents in the water.
The entire world has been weeping for weeks now and is weeping still. We are a shared community in ways we never would have imagined. For the first time in the history of the planet, we are now together weeping for those taken too soon – the oldest ones, the vulnerable ones, and now also the younger ones as well. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, our world is feeling the tearing of our spirits and our hearts.
I cannot and will not make this about God’s righting of wrongs, or purging the world for some kind of sanctifying. Instead I am leaning into the One who created and creates new each day. I am leaning into the One who has promised to be with us. I pray with my whole heart that as these waters are stirred there will come life for us in the midst of so much pain and loss and death.
When I’m humming this song while waiting on the dawn to come or saying my prayers at night, I’m reminded of God’s activity in the world. I’m reminded when I see moving water, swirling water, stirred up water that there is a presence greater than me. And thank God for that. It’s way too early to speak of healing from these days. Way too early to think of freedom from fear of what may be next. But this song comes to my heart at just the right time to hear words that speak to God’s loving presence here in the midst of us.