I worshiped this morning in a church that has an early service with guitar and music that is not familiar to me. One of the songs had these words: “Bring your spirit like a living stream to the center of my heart … and let it overwhelm me like the sea.” As the people were singing, I had this memory of being at the beach in the water and getting knocked down by a strong wave.
There is that sense of losing all control, of being turned over and over so you no longer know what is up, of not being able to breathe or find your footing. And then finally you are deposited on the sand, scraped and bruised and out of breath.
I don’t know why we would ask for that, but I do know that it is often the way the Spirit comes. It knocks me down, strips away my fragile sense of control, and turns my world upside down. I must depend on the power of the wave – the power of the Spirit -- to bring me to safety because I cannot do it myself.
John Donne wrote a poem that is a prayer seeking this experience:
Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
It is an odd prayer to pray, perhaps, but maybe it holds more truth than our usual tame and timid inquiries of the Spirit……