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March 2014 Catholic By Grace Column

 

Crane Creek was the rambling stream that ran behind our Iowa home when I was a child. It was the swelling water that rushed mightily in the spring and flooded the basements, except ours – thanks to the sump pump the board of trustees included in the building plan of the new parsonage.

The creek was the frozen play land where I first learned to keep my ankles firm when they wanted to twist and buckle in my new white ice skates. It was the same creek where some guy veered off the road one night and drove down the embankment and right out on the ice but didn’t break through. He just opened the door of his car and crawled on all fours across the ice to safety. Nobody told us how they got his car off the ice and back to the road.

The creek ran beside the park where I slid down a splintery slide and tore an eight-inch hole in my favorite jeans – back when I was still young enough to climb the slide but old enough to care about favorite jeans.

It’s where my sister, brother and I cut grass and made pocket change for pool admission at the local KOA.

Crane Creek. It’s where my brother caught blue gill too small to eat, and I became an Iowa girl always and forever.

It’s where I took walks when I needed space, where I realized how much I didn’t want to move to my father’s new pastorate. I wanted to stay there, by the creek, near friends, and marry and have babies who grew up to skate and slide and fish.

Place matters.

It forms us. It stays with us. Like the Church, where our fingers dip, where we are washed and freed from every stain. Where we return every Lent and remember. Reclaim. Renew.

It’s there always. A water that captures us and captivates us and never lets go.

Water strong enough to hold us, even when we crash into it like that driver on a cold January night crashed into the frozen creek behind our house. Yes, even then it saves us. Protects us. Bears us up.

It’s always there, even if we travel far, take up residence in another state of existence, stop skating, stop remembering.

It doesn’t forget, but waits for us to remember.

In spring, especially during Lent, our hearts turn back. We think of songs like Come back to me with all your heart.

We feel it when the daffodils and tulips push through the thawing soil, when the outdoors beckons, when dormant things awaken.

It’s time to make our way back home again and claim our heritage. It’s time to remember who we are, whose we are, and the waters where it all began.

Lent and baptism. Dying and rebirth. Ashes and holy water.

It’s time to turn toward home and remember the One who first loved us, long before we had a concept of seasons and places and time. Let us return to the baptismal font. Dip our fingers. And remember how to say—save us, savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.

And we just might hear him whispering, Long have I waited for your coming home to me . . .

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