Salt water made fresh

By Vinal Van Benthem | November 6, 2014

Day after day, hour after hour they come. One after another they enter Joyce’s beauty shop. Women — mostly old women, wanting to look younger, young women wanting to look more glamorous and occasionally a man — will come in for a quick haircut. She greets most of them by name. She offers them a cup of coffee. She invites them to take a seat. And then begins the work of transformation.

“How’s your family?” she asks. An innocent enough question, but her customer knows that she really means it when she asks. And, so, the customer answers, and what began as a simple question ends with the customer tearfully telling of her daughter’s unexpected pregnancy and how her world of college and career plans has been turned upside down. And that’s when the real transformation begins to happen. Joyce listens with care, letting the woman tell her story. She doesn’t offer any advice but somehow, in the telling, the woman finds answers. As she leaves she thanks Joyce for helping her. And salt water is made fresh.

Another woman sits down. Her story is different. The diagnosis is not good. She will begin chemotherapy tomorrow. Joyce listens and hears the woman’s fear. “They say I may lose my hair,” the woman says. “Then we will give you new hair,” Joyce replies. “We have loads of fantastic wigs in our catalogs, and when it begins to grow back we’ll give you a new hairstyle that will make you look 10 years younger!” And, again, salt water is made fresh.

The prophet Ezekiel paints a word picture of Jerusalem and its Temple destroyed, its people taken into slavery in tears. But then he prophesies a new Temple and fresh water flowing out from it. Later scholars compare the Temple, destroyed and rebuilt, to Jesus and his body, dead and raised up again. Salt water made fresh.
Today you and I are called to be the body of Christ. But do we really know what that means? Are we able to make fresh water from salty? Joyce knows. She does it every day …

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.

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