Chances are, if you asked a fish about water, the fish would reply, “What do you mean by water?” One of the amazing things is that we tend to lose touch with the surroundings we are in all the time. We become desensitized and become comfortable with familiarity. Our “is” soon becomes our “right.” We are the last to recognize anything could be wrong with our water.
In that sleepy state, the cries of others seem excessive and startling. Who are “they” to tell me something is amiss in “my” world? Prophetic voices are intrusions.
So, to justify our disregard of them we quickly define their words and actions as disloyalty, writing them off as trouble-makers and upsetters of our sanctified status quo. We impugn their character and declare them to have once been one of us, but now are gone over the slippery slope to the dark side.
We don’t realize that as we do this, we are saying more about ourselves than we are about those we reject. We don’t recognize that we have become comfortable in “our” water, and we don’t want anyone calling it into question. As one popular writer put it some years ago, we do not want anyone to move our cheese.
But that is what reformers do. Start with the Old Testament prophets, move ahead to Jesus and the first Christians. Travel with the monastics, touch lepers with Francis and Clare, walk with Catherine of Sienna, stand with Martin Luther, saddle up with John Wesley, march with Dorothy Day and Martin.Luther King, Jr., and follow where Thomas Merton and Wilda Gafney would have us go.
Everyone of them keep asking fish to pay attention to the water. That’s what reformers do. In the short run, they are villified, shunned, and booted out of the camp. Like Wesley, they are told they cannot preach inside a church, so they go outside and preach on a tombstone. And long afterward, most of them are seen to have been women and men sent from God to keep the fish from dying in contaminated ponds.
The fish who pay attention when someone asks them about the water are the ones who survive (Isaiah 43:19).