The Divine Idea of Water

How long it can seem since the last delight and before the next one. Delight can come with the mastery of a skill, or the discovery of an idea, the arrival of someone you love, or the removal of an obstacle. Some delights are anticipated, expected, chosen, received. Some rituals bring delight: coffee served a certain way, wine poured into this glass instead of that one, the smell of incense, the chiming of bells, the beginning of a prayer, or the end of one. Some delights bring giddiness: a stolen moment, an unexpected intimacy, getting away with something that might have ended you.

“Delight yourself in the Lord,” the Psalmist says, “and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It is not so much that we pile up familiar ideas of God until they add up to some kind of joy, or awe, or delight, though it can happen that way. It is not that we come to Him with the right kind of hunger and then we leave with that hunger gratified. We might leave refreshed and at the same time still hungry for more. We don’t know what the desires of our heart are until we see that He is holding them out to us. Holding out the desires we want to desire with. Or holding out refreshment for something we didn’t know was dried and cracking within us. Not unlike the mother who holds out a glass of cool water to a child who doesn’t know how thirsty they are. But the mother knows. The mother knows the last time the child drank something, and how hot the day is, and a million other things the child is maybe only vaguely aware of. There. Good. Now the child can go back to delighting in what they were delighting in. And that may even be a ritual that sometimes delights the mother.

Here is George Macdonald with some of the most delightful things ever said about that elemental thing called water:

“Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water? Or has God put the two together only that man might separate and find them out? He allows his child to pull his toys to pieces: but were they made that he might pull them to pieces? He were a child not to be envied for whom his inglorious father would make toys to such an end! A school examiner might see therin the best uses of a toy, but not a father! Find for us what in the constitution of the two gases makes them fit and capable to be thus honoured in forming the lovely thing, and you will give us a revelation about more than water, namely about the God who made oxygen and hydrogen. There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen; it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the loving God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier. The very thought of water itself, that dances and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst… – this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace. – this live thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table – this water is its own self, its own truth, and is therin a truth of God. Let him who would know the truth of the maker, become sorely athirst, and drink of the brook by the way – then lift up his heart – not at that moment to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God.”

– George Macdonald from “The Mirrors of the Lord”


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