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Bathing Belief

by Rebecca Buchert

Cradled you were clear
fresh water lifted the fuzz
of your hair into a halo--
beauty brilliant

speck and dreck
dregs and drivel
have confused conviction
obscuring grace and
hazing halation

should i drain the basin fully?
if i douse and scour will you drown?
descend into a watery grave
with no resurrection?

and if i maintain this water
will your skin become gray
and my faith decay?
does this bath distort
discernment of your holiness?

spirit cuts murkiness and
you electrify water
purifying grime
with a fountain
of living water

For the first year of her life, my oldest daughter had only peach fuzz for hair. When I would bathe her, the fine blonde hair lifted in the water to form a golden halo around her head. She cried incessantly for the first two months, but she was divine in water.


I have often wondered what it would be like to perceive life from a different point of view. If my lived experience was different, would I come to the same conclusions? Would my conception of God be different, if I had one at all? Is it possible to walk away from a certain praxis or perspective and retain the core of that particular worldview? 


I was walking home from school one afternoon thinking about these questions. I was troubled about some aspects of the structure and worship in the Church and considered abandoning ship. It was easy for me to see a trajectory in which I eventually lost my connection to God. Whether that would happen, I could not be sure. But I did know that I did not want to lose the core of my belief, even if the way I engaged in spiritual practice changed. In other words, if I left, I did not want to β€œthrow the baby out with the bathwater.” 

 

I started thinking about my connection to God in the context of the metaphor this idiom suggests. I thought of my daughter and her halo in the bath. I thought of how relatively uncomplicated my vision of God was when I was younger; the watery medium of my worship and worldview was clear. The bathwater of my perspective seemed murkier now. Was it doubt that clouded my vision or was the bathwater of my faith tradition somehow polluted? And if the Church muddied the water with imperfections, did being steeped in that water cause me to see a brackish God? Was it possible to drain and refill the bathwater and keep the baby?


As I thought about these things it occurred to me that the Spirit acts as a clarifying agent. NASA invented a water purification method in which water impurities are broken down through electricity. This was an idea I could hold onto in my questions: I can see through whatever impurities are suspended in my faith tradition through experiences with the Spirit. The Spirit cleans, clarifies, guides, teaches, illuminates, helps me to discern the holy. In fact, the Spirit connects me to Living Water. Instead of trying to see darkly through a bath that sits like a cistern, the Spirit revitalizes and replenishes the water and my relationship with God. If I try to cultivate experiences with the Spirit my vision is clearer and my heart is more at peace. I can still discern a halo in the water.