In the early 1990s, Albert LaFleur used to tell me, every day, that he loved his pebble “from Nova Scotia. It pleases me more than the Rock of Gibraltar.”
This pebble fit in the palm of his hand: it was flat and smooth and had been worn down over many years to a smoothness that was pleasing to the touch. Albert was blind; there wasn’t much he hadn’t seen in his 95 years, but there was still something comforting in that pebble. Although his face wasn’t smooth, his heart was. What was wrong with the Rock of Gibraltar, I asked him. “It’s dark and craggy, ugly.” I realized later that the Rock of Gibraltar was the last stopping point before Mr. LaFleur went into the thick of World War One. The Rock of Gibraltar was a metaphor for another time in life, a time when the polishing didn’t happen gently, when the rocks of war clashed with one another, when men were left broken rather than polished.
We don’t think of water as “hard” (unless you’re that guy who installs water filters) but we do think of rocks as hard. Yet water against rock over time equals polish. Colors pop: reds and greens, subtler hues of gray and black. The rock, by itself, doesn’t become polished. Nor is it polished by something hard. In fact, if you take a hard rock and smack it against another hard rock, one is going to break, or at least bruise. Water in motion, on the other hand, when coming in waves as the moon circles the earth, can softly polish the rock.
In the Void it’s very easy for our hearts to feel like rocks. They sit inside our chests and, at least spiritually and psychologically speaking, they don’t even feel like they’re beating. Cold, solid, un-moving and unmoved. To experience a fusion in the void, we need water in motion. In fact, we need a tidal bore.
The Bay of Fundy creates a unique tide pattern daily. Most tides go up and down with a normal amount of highs and lows. The unique shape of the Bay of Fundy creates a phenomenon a bit like the sloshing of water back and forth in a long, narrow bathtub. That is to say, when the tides come in at the end of that bathtub, they come in really high, even pushing water upriver into the tributary. When the tide goes out in Truro, Nova Scotia, you can ride the river down as though it was whitewater. The rest of the day, the river is just a normal lazy river flowing into the Bay, but when the tide comes in or goes out, you get a quarter-hour or so of excitement.
So, if we are like rocks during the Void experience, it seems that a polishing is happening TO us, and this isn’t something we can strive for. It will just happen over time as though we were a boulder situated on the beach at the eastern end of the Bay of Fundy. The polishing is not something we can really see or feel happening, but God is there like the tide, in and out, water in motion. God pushes us, then pulls, then pushes again. In the Void, our rocky hearts fuse with the water God bathes us in. One day you will see, even if you are blind like old Mr. LaFleur — I invite you to have hope in this — that this rock from Nova Scotia you’ve become is more pleasing than the Rock of Gibraltar. It’s happening. Even — especially when it isn’t noticeable.
If you want to read a fictitious rendering of the life of Albert LaFleur, pick up my novel, White Buffalo Gold.