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The beauty of striving Print
Guest column
Thursday, Mar. 17, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

On a recent trip to Florida, I went kayaking in a nature preserve. I started in the Gulf of Mexico and followed the shoreline into a creek that wove and curved through a forest of banyan trees.

Banyan trees are so mysterious. Thier roots rise up out of the ground and intertwine to make the trunk and roots shoot out of the branches and reach toward the ground­­ -- actually, I cannot tell exactly where the roots are originating from as they flow together in a beautiful and tangled mess.

Striving toward the water

As I paddled further into the forest, I was so struck by the trees along the water. The roots on the bottom dove into the water and the roots from the branches (hanging above the water) reached down to almost touch the surface. Sometimes, I had to maneuver around the vines hanging down, because they (rather forcefully) blocked the way.

What struck me was these roots and vines were striving. They were striving toward the water -- reaching with an energy that could only be understood by careful reflection and observation. They were moving with every cell in their being toward their destiny.

My heart was moved, because I was reminded of images in the Psalms of this striving for water­­ -- this thirst. This is our proper attitude in front of Christ. The substance of our being was made to desire the Living Water of Christ’s love.

As I was kayaking, I was forced to ask myself how much my attitude and posture­­ -- the way I live -- ­­reflects this striving. In these questions, I was reminded of the dignity of my humanity that is expressed in my conversion.

Waking up to Christ

Before, when I had no experience of Christ, life was dry, and I did not have a yearning for what was good. During my conversion­­, I was waking up ­­and I started yearning. I started screaming. I​ started reaching for the Water that would sustain me. My dignity was awakened.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone. Even though I could not see her, I noticed in her a profound change. I said, “You sound really good. You sound different!” (She sounded awakened somehow.) After I said this, she said, “I have to tell you something . . . No, I have to ask you something.” At that moment, I knew. She had left the Catholic Church.

She and her husband had found an Evangelical Bible study group at their neighbor’s house, and they were confronted with questions that they had never looked at before. She was excited­­ -- but very curious.

She asked me all of the standard “Biblical proof” questions that were argued to her by the Bible group. (And, I tried my best to answer them in a non­judgmental, non­reactive way.) She had opened up -- ­­seemingly for the first time. I was humbled that she chose to confide in me this way. I told her I loved her, and that I wanted to walk with her in her journey.

I was so struck by my emotions following the phone call. All at once, I felt two very strong emotions: ­­one was extreme love for her and excitement for her journey; the other was profound sadness and mourning. I allowed myself this sadness, but by the next day, I chose to dwell in the love. I desire to accompany her, and I am awakened by her new-found passion and curiosity.

Striving for the Living Water

She is striving for Christ. (For the first time!) Her dignity is being awakened as she really yearns and screams out for Christ for the first time in her life. When I think of her voice now, I am reminded of the banyan trees.

Her voice and curiosity -- ­­her desire­ -- ­reflected the striving movement of the roots and vines. I am struck by the beauty of this image -- ­­and the extreme privilege to walk with her as she strives for the Living Water. Her striving reawakens my dignity and humanity.

What is your posture and movement toward Christ? When was the last time you noticed that you were reawakened? How do you react in front of someone who asks questions about the Church -- ­­is it a reaction that ignores the person’s dignity? Can you witness the beauty of striving?


Morgan Smith is a member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison and active in the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.