What kept me afloat?

by Elouise

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~~~~~Floating blossoms in an urn at Chanticleer Gardens, Sept 2016

After reading my dream, a friend asked this question: “What has already been keeping you afloat?”

I’m not drowning in the dream, though I fear some monster lurking beneath the surface might make a meal of me. Instead, it seems I’ve been floating on the Yangtze River for a while, perhaps more than 70 years. What kept me afloat?

I could point to the raft, though it was flimsy. Better, I could say God was keeping me afloat.

Yet that makes me uneasy. Many people don’t make it, through no fault of their own. So here’s a more satisfying answer.

I can’t say God kept me afloat unless I acknowledge the ways God has done this. The following examples come to mind right away.

  • Nature as God’s creation, with its capacity to remind me that Aslan is on the move in rustling leaves and roaring lion storms that turn everything upside down
  • God’s Spirit moving through music, art and poetry to lift my spirit, accompany my mourning and my rejoicing, or to challenge my perceptions and assumptions
  • Individuals who convey the unseen presence of God no matter who they are or what they believe. Perhaps through a smile and hello, or unexpected hospitality and care
  • Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that show me who I am in God’s eyes—God’s beloved daughter child, reflecting God’s image, yet limited and in need of others to walk with me, pray with and for me, challenge and encourage me, let me know I’m not alone

I’m still afloat, though I’ve never had a magic wand or free pass. I’ve had what each of us has: the limited circumstances into which I was born, and the ability to make limited choices about how to negotiate these circumstances. Sometimes alone, often with difficulty, sometimes with courage, excitement and anticipation.

If I’m still floating it’s because of God’s presence with and around me—which means in part, because of you.

People known and unknown have kept me afloat. God has worked with and through them, letting me know my life experience is worth studying, remembering and celebrating.

This raises tough questions. Does this mean my father helped keep me afloat? And what about my First Boss, and others whose faces sometimes turned against me?

In a strange way, yes, they helped me stay afloat. Their treatment of me, though not always honorable or welcome, helped toughen me, educate me, and develop skills for relating with others.

Was it costly? Yes, especially in the moment. Was it wrong? Frequently, though for reasons I may never understand. Nonetheless, looking back, tough times added another layer of experience and grit to my determination. I kept moving, though it meant running into tree trunks in the dark of night, stumbling on a root or even losing my way from time to time.

Was I brave? Yes. I don’t know what else to call the little girl, young woman and adult in me who took punishment meted out with a strict hand or a forked tongue, and kept going. She takes my breath away.

Am I still brave today? People who know me tell me I am, though in the moment I don’t feel like it. I choose to believe them and keep going no matter how I feel.

So here I am right now. Afloat. Thanks to all the people and things I list above, plus these:

  • God’s unseen Spirit holding my often trembling spirit together for more than 70 years, and
  • The horrors of childhood and youth that gave me a precious gift—the ability to connect from time to time with what lies below the surface of other peoples’ lives.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 September 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser, Chanticleer Gardens, September 2016