Murky Waters

I was not thrilled as I looked at the gray sky before me. A smattering of rain drops pelted my forehead and I frowned a little on the inside. Wandering down the gravel pathway we scoped out a perfect spot for our picnic. We checked the ground for sticks and goose poop. Satisfied that we were safe from both squishy and poking objects we set up camp for the next few hours.

Two blankets, numerous Tupperware containers, a glass of lemonade and four scattered shoes later we settled down to listen to the free jazz concert in City Park. We chatted a little; watched Caitlyn dance and play around the blankets and scoped the area for some friends who we knew were heading our way. The rain held off, save for a few droplets here and there.

Our friends would arrive about twenty minutes later, and our two blanket camp blossomed into five. Wine was poured; food eaten; conversations came and went. We laughed as the two boys and Caitlyn tested the surroundings. They were both about six to ten months younger than her. They were, as it has been said before, all boy.

As the evening wore on, Caitlyn was content to stay on the blanket and watch the world around her. This was a new development and one that my spouse and I welcomed. Caitlyn has never been one to sit still and we were relieved to have some time together without one of us chasing our wild horse.

As the daylight waned, the two young men, no longer enamored with the sticks they were using to dig holes in the ground, noticed a rather large mud puddle across the gravel trail from our picnic spot. They began by poking the puddle with stick, gradually placing their feet into its murky depths. Then the fun began…

Soon afterwards they were the hit of the picnic area, running the length of the puddle, covered in muddy water from their feet to their waistbands. The other picnickers watch with a sense of joy and laughter as the two boys ran faster and the splashes grew larger. Several other children attempted to join in, only to be caught by their parents before their first step could hit the water.

Caitlyn watched this from across the trail. Smiling as the boys moved from one side to the other. She asked if she could join them and we said no. She asked again, and again we said no. To her credit she never cried, never fussed and so when asked a third time, we said sure. We put her on the ground and watched her cross the trail. Caitlyn doesn’t run so much as prance; she lifts her knees up high and kicks her feet out to the side a little. She lined up at one end of the puddle and began running towards puddle, full of elbows and smiles.

The crowd around the puddle held their breath as she hit the edge of the puddle. We watched as the smile was torn from her face replaced with what could only be described as a look of horror. It took her another three steps before she realized that she had made a horrible mistake. Rivulets of muddy water stretched up the back of her legs; her once pink shoes turned a dark shade of brown. On the third step she veered off course and back onto the dry ground, seemingly in shock.

I sometimes wish I had the tenacity and flexibility that Caitlyn demonstrates. She saw something she wanted and went for it. Sometimes we do need to take the risk and experience new things. This is how we learn and grow through our experiences in the world. If we remain comfortable and clean then the world becomes boring and simple. A muddy puddle is a complicated thing depending on how we experience it. For two little boys and the crowd that watched them it was a revelation in joy and unfettered fun. For a little girl and the crowd that empathized with her, it was an uncomfortable experience in a wet sticky muck.

This is where Caitlyn’s flexibility shone like a bright star. It only took three steps into the puddle to realize that it wasn’t for her. She didn’t bother taking the remaining six to eight steps and finish trudging through it. She veered off course and evaluated the situation. Reflection on the decisions we have made, the positions we have taken is crucial to experiencing a novel world and making meaning out of it. One of the greatest sins of modern liberal and conservative church goers may be our inflexibility and the belief that we are always right. Rushing headlong into the mystery and murkiness of faith and theology without reflection we succeed in only making our self muddier and muddier.

As we step together into the novelty of each new moment, what are risks we need to tenacious about and how will we know when to stop and be reflective and flexible about the path we are taking?


    Despite the years of training as an academic writer, your creative writing is vivid and tells a great and colorful story. Keep it up! And keep challenging us to be flexible and open to new and possibly different things.


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