Last fall, I set out in my kayak for quick, solo paddle across Lake George. Our family was spending the weekend at Silver Bay YMCA, blessed by the amazing opportunity that the Brookside/Trinity Ministry offers: rest and renewal – in the form of free room and board during the fall, winter, and spring – for those who minister to others. If you haven’t taken advantage of this renewal opportunity, I can’t recommend it enough.
We had enjoyed bopping around the beautiful grounds as a family, but I was ready for a little alone time. On the far shore, the fall colors were a dark blaze on the mountain, contrasting with the brilliance of the sky. But, what really caught my attention was the clarity of the water.
The shore I had left behind at Silver Bay had sandy beaches that stretched way out under the surface of the lake, only gradually deepening. As I approached the far shore, there were boulders instead of beaches. Thanks to the clear water, I could see how the boulders dropped off like cliffs below the surface, plummeting down. There was a seamless connection from the brilliance of the water at the surface into sheer darkness of the depths below.
It was terrifying. But, I felt compelled to follow the the contours of the rocks deeper and deeper. I couldn’t take my eyes off those haunting depths. I had to control and impulse to flip the boat over into the frigid autumn water and dive right in!
Needless to say, I carried this image with me back across the lake to a timely visit with a spiritual director (another one of the blessings of the Brookside/Trinity Ministry)… a conversation that focused on embracing middle age. Our conversation kept returning to this image: an invitation to plumb the depths… and to make space in my life for more encounters with the haunting contours our being.
At his suggestion, I’ve found a Jungian analyst. We talk about dreams and the soul. In our work, he’s challenged me to do two things: be courageous and be honest. I’ve also added some pick-up basketball into my life, something that was a big part of my youth. It’s been a pleasant discovery to find the muscle memory for a jump shot is still there after all these years. Though, I’ve also learned that there are serious physical repercussions if I play for three hours straight (something I did all the time when I was 18).
To my surprise, I’ve also found myself taking yoga. This isn’t something he suggested, but something that I sensed I needed.
Full disclosure: My flexibility is limited, to say the least! I can’t help but feel awkward as I stumble in-and-out of poses trying to figure out how they work. And, I often have to find ways to compensate – with blocks or straps or pads – to approximate a pose that seems to come easily to everyone else in the room. And don’t get me started with the spiritual materialism of our culture that so easily appropriates aspects of other cultures for our own desires…
But, it’s good to get over my hang-ups. And, it’s good to be stretched… literally.
And, it helps that my yoga teacher just happens to be a Teaching Elder in our presbytery, Leslie Mott. She brings the same grace and groundedness I first witnessed when we did a funeral together, and later when she led a retreat for our congregation. It’s a gift to be honored and encouraged – whether in the awkwardness of a yoga pose, the agony of grief, or the challenge of growing a congregation.
If you’re looking for someone to help you explore the depths – with grace and encouragement – check out Leslie’s webpage, the aptly named: Beside Still Waters
Ben Larson-Wolbrink feels pretty darned blessed to serve the First Presbyterian Church of Beacon. He loves his family and the community… not to mention the beauty of the Hudson Valley. After a recent basketball game, a church youth coined the phrase: “All Pastor. All day.” Ben has mixed feelings about this…