In the corner of the barn, I set the pail of water down before him, my injured sheep. I watch as he searches over the surface of the water. For several months, I have fed him water from a syringe. Today he does not want my help. It is as if he has thought it all through, and has come to a new understanding.
Nafshi, as the psalmist cries.
I .... my whole being
...have come today to drink.
He begins by skimming his mouth over the surface of the water, as I have seen him do many times before. For whatever reason, it is as if he has forgotten how to drink. Then very cautiously, he touches his mouth to the water.
Kneeling down beside him on the barn floor, I take off my hat to listen. Then gently and slowly, he begins to swallow. His head remains lowered, his neck bent towards the water and the water in the bucket begins to go down.
It is a pivotal moment in his life...almost Holy...almost missed...on my knees, my heart swelling with deep gratitude. He came to this moment, drinking deeply out of a great thirst and it will save his life.
The rains have come again. The earth is full and seeping. It seeps over the banks of the creek. It seeps along the backyard fence, inching its way almost to the house. As I walk along by the creek, I search for where to place my feet because all is wet in this season.
Are you a person of whom it can be said that your heart and your mind are filled with
a peace that surpasses all comprehension? Oh, that we could be such people
again, intrinsically filled to the brim---not only with the knowledge, but with the personal,
prayed- in and wrestled-in reality and abundance of our Lord God.
Writing this from within a concentration camp during the second world war, Alfred Delp understood personal, prayed-in and wrestled-in reality.
I search my mind for the realities of my life: wasted time, unfinished goals, poor choices, the absence of prayer, consuming fear, cold embraces, the mistakes of a mother which are seen in the children's struggles and I wrestle with my failures. I will wrestle with them tomorrow and the next day and the next...and when I can, I will bring them to Him and wait in hope to drink of His mercy and goodness. Although I wish otherwise, I have not entered the new year prepared and ready...with a light heart. I enter into it, timidly and with utter dependence on Him, wishing I had more to bring. But He says that His grace is sufficient. Walk with Him. He promises that He will not leave me. He will show me where to place my feet.
I still watch over my sheep, stopping by his stall and leaning over the railing, to pull out pieces of hay that have slipped sideways in his mouth, getting stuck. I still listen the quiet sound of him drinking and probably always will as long as he is with me.
As time moves on and on, there is the calling - God in our midst. Our hearts must remain honest, awake. Advent is in the new year. Advent is now.