The Rio Grande passes quietly through the valley where we live in Southern New Mexico. In spite of the current, the surface of the river remains calm because the water flows over a smooth, sandy river bed. To cool off on hot summer weekends, families with children wade or sit in the shallow water near the banks. They stay close to the edges of the river. There can be quicksand near the center.
I’ve been thinking about serenity and peace lately. If I wish to remain outwardly serene, I need to be at peace beneath the surface.
For the most part, I am at peace with myself. Yet, from time to time I find a submerged rock or tree branch that disturbs the surface. Then, there is turbulence for a while, until I figure out what to do with it.
In Southern New Mexico, most farmers still use the ancient method of flood irrigation to water their fields and pecan groves. The Rio Grande River runs from north to south down the center of the state before turning east and forming part of the border between Texas and Mexico. Water is pumped from the river or wells into the mother canals and from there into smaller canals. The farmers open their gates along the way, and water rushes into the fields and floods the land.
This reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s analogy of the four ways that she obtained the waters of grace in prayer. In the first, she had to exert a lot of effort to draw water from the well to water the garden of her soul. In the second, devices such as the crank of a water wheel or an aqueduct allowed her to obtain more grace with less effort. (God’s help became more apparent.) In the third, her garden was irrigated with flowing water from a river or spring. (She became even more aware of God’s grace in prayer.) And finally, the Lord poured an abundance of grace on the garden of her soul with no effort on her part at all. (See The Book of Her Life, Chapter 11 et al.)
Since our gardens always need water, may God grant us the
grace to continue in prayer when it requires a lot of effort. And may He grant us the wisdom to open our
gates when He abundantly offers His gifts.