Just as Jesus came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him. – Matthew 3:16 (NRSV)
In the 1980s, an ecotherapy trend took hold in Japan: shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” It didn’t take long for scientists to find ways to quantify the benefits of the practice; forest bathing had beautiful health outcomes. For example, it’s known that evergreens release a whole lot of phytoncides in what they call a “phytoncide shower,” which gives an immunity boost that can last for weeks on end.
Of course, the truth is that nature gives us all kinds of gifts. Robin Wall Kimmerer put it beautifully: “Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and then they give it away.” When you bathe in the forest, you are giving yourself the chance to bathe in the abundance of gifts freely given.
We bathe in many things. Water, obviously. But think more expansively: what are you immersed in? Consumerism? Military-industrial complex? Air we pollute with abandon?
God invites something different, though.
You were born to bathe in God’s love. That is your birthright. That is your place in the world. That is who you are. God’s child. God’s beloved. In whom God is well pleased.
So go ahead, let God’s love wash over you. Set that as the intention for your day. These waters feel real good.
Take me to the waters, God. Bathe me in your light and love. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.