Standing at the edge of where a mountain stream becomes a many-tiered waterfall, I am pulled at by conflicting desires.
Beauty and wonder draw me in. I want to come close and feel the weight of the waterfall’s glory pounding down on me, sweeping me along in the gladsome downward abandon of leaping cataracts, where the water shatters on rocks, dividing and reuniting, constantly pouring out, constantly thundering out joy.
Fear holds me back: I am too small and limited a being to withstand the pounding and thundering of many waters. I fear being swept along–my finite, irreparable self dashed against the rocks that the water is persistently polishing even as streams splinter off the rock, only to reunite further down.
Fear wins. I hail the larger falls from a distance and save my scramblings and explorations for smaller, slower, tamer-seeming outpourings. In this case, fear is a healthy instinct, based on a sober understanding of my own physical nature and its attendant limitations.
But what if the waterfall is more than a (excessively) massive amount of water, coerced by gravity into pouring down tall piles of rocks? What if the waterfall is itself one word among many to come from the mouth of God when He spoke the world into being? Well, then, perhaps the apparently insane desire to become one with the cataracts of water stems from recognizing a meaning that my heart reads, even as my mind calculates the physical probabilities. In the thunder and mist of the mighty cataracts my heart sees the glory of a life that gives, flowing ever downward in joyful self-denial, spraying up in beauty even as the living waters dash against insensible, impeding rocks.
Again I stand, pulled at by conflicting desires: to step in and be swept away by this beautifully dangerous current of self-giving, or to remain an observer, safe and self-contained. Here fear is not the healthy instinct; here the physical principle of self-preservation is set on its head, for the life of the spirit is not found in cautious care, but in a constant, perhaps seemingly reckless and excessive, outpouring of self. Lose your life for me and the Good News of my kingdom of Life in order to save your life, said Jesus.
Lose to save. Pour out to be filled. These paradoxes are imaged forth in the waterfall, awakening a desire within me for the hard-won beauty of a life so lived.
The featured photos were taken at Glen Falls and Whitewater Falls in the Sapphire Valley area of N. Carolina.