A few weeks ago, I reflected on how the heart will not be silent. Since then, a friend introduced me to the thought-leadership of Dr. Brené Brown — a ground-breaking researcher on shame and vulnerability, which now has named the life approach that really resonates with me: Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart, a beautiful-yet-sometimes-gut-wrenching way to live. Give yourself a tremendous gift, click that link to Dr. Brown and watch her videos if, like me, you had taken up brief residency under a rock causing you to miss her breakout 4 years ago.
Amidst all of these heart-ponderings (literally), a passage in my morning meditation one day this week caused me to stop and sit with it:
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it whatever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1
A stream of water… Water is a powerful symbol. Considering it is Lent, my thoughts encircle the Catholic Liturgy, where we often draw upon that symbolism. One such way is during Baptism, where the water demonstrates the action of the Holy Spirit, and so is a sacramental sign of new birth.
“Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. (CCC 694).
Although it’s a longer passage, this is a profound illustration of the similar characteristics of water and the Holy Spirit, from one of the early Church Fathers — St. Cyril of Jerusalem. It’s also part of an excellent reflection of images of the Holy Spirit by Msgr. Charles Pope here:
“But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.” (Cat. 16, De Spiritu Sancto 1, 11-12.16: PG 33, 931-935. 939-942) –St. Cyril of Jerusalem
As we know, water is essential for all living things, and even though it remains unchanged – each creature responds to it differently, using it according to its needs. St. Cyril compares this to the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us (if we allow it).
Stop and reflect on that for a moment: There is one Spirit, unchangeable, yet His actions adapt according to the specific needs of each particular person…. #mindblowing
So while I’ve not done my few weeks of exegesis on this text (sorry, Dr. Scott Hahn–my beloved Scripture professor from back in the day), I’m going to still take a stab at pulling this all together:
- A King is a leader.
- The heart is our lifesource, our center, our core.
- Water is the action of the Holy Spirit.
- Where does the center of this action reside? In the hands of the Lord. What better place is there to be, then safely tucked in the hands of the Master of the Universe?
- “He turns it whatever he wills.” Oh boy…let’s talk about that one.
There’s a couple of ways to view, “He turns it whatever he wills.” To the adventurous souls, it’s the opportunistic promise that the Christian life will never be dull, and to keep in the flow of the stream of the Spirit. To the cautious souls, it’s an invitation to deeply trust whatever way He turns where your heart and the Spirit will lead you.
And for people like myself, that feel like they reside somewhere between those two descriptions depending on the day: Keep seeking the Lord as your helper, and then try and enjoy the ride, as whole-hearted living is not for sissies!!