Thought for the Day - 11/02/2014 - Rev Dr Jane Leach
This morning floods are again bringing misery to many and my heart goes out to those whose houses or businesses or farmland have been flooded or are threatened. I spent the early part of my ministry in the Cambridgeshire Fens, living below sea level, and becoming aware for the first time of the power of the elements and of our reliance in those communities upon artificial pumping systems to get the water away.
Many of our strategies for dealing with floods are defensive – built on the notion of keeping the water out – and of course when flood warnings come the immediate need is for sandbags – and perhaps for rescue. But, longer term, although our first instincts may be that we need better barriers on rivers or higher sea walls there are further strategies that might also serve us, which are essentially non-defensive – opening ourselves up to the reality of just how much water there may be to be contained and adjusting our approach accordingly - deliberately maintaining wetlands, for example, so that the water has somewhere to go – or more experimentally, like the Dutch, building amphibious homes that rest on foundations but under flood conditions rise on pontoons.
This building technique seems to contradict the parable that Jesus told about building on rock rather than on sand, the obvious implication being that rock is safer, for when the rains come the foundations keep things firm. But in the light of modern building techniques we know that rigidity is not always the best way to approach what is overwhelming – buildings that bend in the wind, for example, are much more robust.
Jesus, of course, was not a building consultant. Rather he was talking about the foundations on which we build our lives. But our attitude to life in general will feed through to our attitude to flooding. If we are constantly shoring up our psychological defences against the things we fear, this takes massive energy and resources but it cannot in the end keep us safe; more robust than constant defence maintenance is a degree of realism about our limitations as human beings, and a rooted flexibility so that life’s overwhelmings when they come do not knock us flat.
The point is that knowing what matters deep down and being secure in that enables us to deal non-defensively with what life throws at us - so Christians believe that what is at the heart of the universe is resilient love which even many waters cannot drown.
Survival strategies are essential during emergencies, but the longer term questions are also about how we build our lives and our water systems non-defensively, so that our energy and intelligence are not spent solely on staving off what we fear, but are used to help ourselves and others to live creatively within the limits of the way things actually are.
Available since: Tue 11 Feb 2014
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