10 October 2011

In the bath

I have just been rediscovering a practice of grace. I have just spent the better part of an hour soaking myself into wrinkliness in a three-cornered spa bath, in the company of half of a Lush bath ballistic (it’s big enough to do two baths, and I’m here for two nights), Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World, and the rain on the roof. And God. Sitting in the warm water, surrounded by the smell of jasmine and tonka bean, with just a touch of ylang ylang, I remembered why I love having a bath. Maybe I appreciate it more because I don’t have one myself. I only get to soak when I’m away and happen to find a motel unit with a tub (which isn’t all that often). The combination of a motel unit with a tub and a Lush shop in the same town is even rarer.

But back to the practice of grace. Why is soaking in the bath a place of grace? Maybe because it’s a place where I come to a skidding halt, all of my thoughts oozing away in the warm water as I lie back there, still and silent, warm, peaceful, and alone. Maybe it’s because it is a place where I simply am – all of me, naked before God (quite literally!) – where I have to look honestly at myself and accept that there is perhaps too much flab and not enough muscle where it counts, but that God loves all of me, even the over-padded bits. Maybe because when I’m having a bath, I can’t be interrupted: even if the phone rings, I simply can’t answer it. The world can roll on without me, and I can be alone. I could get metaphysical and suggest that being in a bath is a bit like being back in the womb, but that might be going too far.

Whatever it is, a bath is a place of grace for me. It is a piece of space that is invariably a time when I can open myself more to God’s love, to reflect on my life and my world, and to realise again that busy does not necessarily mean in touch with life. The grace of the bathtub is like the grace of the four days I had up at Southern Star Abbey last month (last month already?!) but in a short and condensed form. It’s the STOP sign. Stop here. Wait here. Be still. Listen. Know that God can only love me, flabby though I might be, right exactly here, doing exactly what I am doing, and that the invitation is for me to look at the world and see God’s fingerprints in it. God’s face in the faces of the trainees I will meet tomorrow. God’s story in their stories. God’s grace in their conversation and learning. God’s tenderness in the hands that prepare and serve our food. God’s sense of humour in dumping me in with all of that grace. My grace to open my eyes to see it a little more.

Thank God for the gift of a bath.

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