The River Freedom
The Journey of a Lifetime
Peaceful, calm and serene – that’s what I see in the river I’m about to enter. The coolness of the water startles my toes – do I really want to proceed as planned or head back to where I came from? It had taken me quite some time to reach this river and it’s been a long, arduous journey so why head back and quit before even giving it a chance.
Plus I knew in my heart it would be a life changing experience. Hesitantly I shuffle my feet and very quickly realize the water’s edge is deceiving. The pristine cool waters did not reveal the drop of its bed that forces me to tread water and now the riverbed seems to be bottomless. I thrust my arms back and forth and move my legs as if I am riding a bicycle so I can stay above the vast water.
From what I had heard about this river and why it appealed to me is how it provides life-changing perspectives to transform one’s mind. The river is named Freedom because it helps people get free from the oppressions, baggage and yuck of life so it can no longer claim their serenity. Having been through many trials and tribulations, I knew this was something very much needed in my life, especially if I wanted to deepen my relationship with God.
But for any of this to happen, one must be IN the river. So after wearing myself out treading water, I consciously decided to let go, and be one with the flow.
As I relinquished control to the forces of nature, I sensed an inner calm. I feel happy, free, and alive – it’s been such a long time since I could even fathom these sensations yet here I was feeling them very deeply, down to the core of my soul. The sun is shining brightly and the sky is breathtakingly blue. I can hear birds singing their songs and a woodpecker banging his head against a tree. I can certainly relate to that bird. How many times have I tried to peck my way through century old tough bark to no avail – except of course for the splitting headaches and being left with a stressed out and overworked body. What a pain!
The River Freedom gives to each traveler a unique experience. While I can share my stories, yours however will undoubtedly differ because the river knows what each person needs at that time in life. Shortly after I related to the woodpecker, the river’s flow just stalls – at a swimming hole. So the kid in me decides to play.
There’s a rope swing that I use to I entertain myself … swinging and laughing then eventually I let go and jump without fear into the water below. Boy that feels good and I repeated this process so many more times that I lost count. Feeling worn out from all the fun, I head to the shore to rest a while. It’s physically exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. How can something so much fun wear me out that quickly?
As I laid my head on the bed of stone rocks which were various colors of alabaster, black, brown and speckled, I pondered this question. Little did I realize how few times I allow myself to just be me: to play and to feel this free. And the art of letting go is exhausting because of fears, concerns, control issues, etc. so the dynamics of trust is huge!
I had been in the river and swimming hole so I knew what hiding beneath its surface but with life, I don’t have this luxury. Try as I might, I keep thinking God needs an assistant that owns both a watch and calendar but he just laughs and says, “No thanks, I have been working fine since the creation of man with my methods and they work perfectly every time.”
After a nice nap in the day’s sun, I headed back into the river and started floating. Before I knew it, I had been pushed ashore to deal with a certain issue that haunts my life - control. This is not an issue solely related to me as many suffer from the need to control: where we try to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over any given situation.
No one who has been on the giving or receiving end of control issues lives an easy life. So where is this control issue established? I think it usually starts when we’re little and experience a major loss, abuse, or abandonment from of a supposedly trustworthy adult making fear a big problem! Control and trust are closely related siblings. The conundrum is that trust is required in order to resign from controlling the outcome. It’s impossible to trust and control simultaneously – it’s either one or the other but we cannot have both.
Because of the nature of the lesson, I was at this spot on the river for quite some time. However once the lesson was learned I found myself back in the river. The river definitely has its grip on me … in a good way. It is helping me become a better person by showing how I could have done things differently and gives me insights on do-overs … those moments when God gives us the opportunity to right our wrongs, and to practice the lessons learned on the river voyage.
There were times when the river was still and quiet which forced me to slow down – to be still – no rushing allowed because I could miss seeing something vital in my life. Events such as when I was born how my father really did love me. I didn’t meet my dad until I was 24 years old and naturally was skeptical whenever he said, “I love you.” It felt empty, hollow, and words without merit.
I couldn’t even refer to him as my dad until after he died when I was 41 years old. So while I cannot go back in time to tell him how sorry I am for not trusting him at that time in my life, I can now talk to him and know that someday we will be together in Heaven. That is a reunion I’m looking forward to having because it’s not easy growing up without a dad. There’s an unfillable void creating a chain of events of issues that stay with a girl for the rest of her life.
Sometimes the river runs like rushing rapids – things happened so fast, I got scared but I realized I had no control over the river. How quickly the last lesson comes back to haunt me - there are just some things in life I will never be able to control. I can fight the river, wear myself out, maybe even be forced under water and run into severe problems or I can stop trying to control the uncontrollable.
There are many times in life when this happens – such as a devastating car accident, major health crisis, job loss, etc. Whenever I have tried to control the uncontrollable, I have been extremely miserable and depressed. I know my attempts to have controlled chaos were futile but regardless I still attempted this feat, in vain, with my family.
When a person doesn’t get the key messages of life while growing up, it only makes adulthood that much more difficult – especially as it relates to knowing or being respectful of boundaries. Just then I spot a spider spinning its web on the low hanging tree branches and thought to myself “Oh what a tangled web we weave” and so it is with me”.
Why must fear seep into every aspect of life and often cause devastation in its path? So many questions go unanswered but only when we are ready to learn the lessons will the teacher appear. When the water level was too low to move me toward the next stop, I realized that’s because if we don’t take care of ourselves we can quickly come depleted. What good am I to others if I’m only functioning at 60%?
Who wants a tired, worn out, overwhelmed person who has the need to make sure things are exactly as they should be for her comfort’s sake? Maybe the local gym does so it can help that person find healthy alternatives to life’s difficulties … or a nutritionist to learn how to eat healthy. This is almost a requirement for anyone who didn’t get this lesson while growing up. When the food pyramid says have five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, that does not mean to eat Skittles because it’s ten percent fruit juice. Just where I got this idea baffles me but sadly, it’s true.
While I don’t always make the healthiest food choices, things are getting better since learning how to eat by a nutritionist. The lesson I got from that experience is “We Eat to Live, Not Live to Eat” … which explains why I kept outgrowing my britches.
After all the twists and turns of The River Freedom, I return to the place where I first started my voyage. And to think I almost turned back because of fear. This is the start of what I envision to be an incredible journey. I hope my experiences bring you comfort and enable you to experience calmness when surrendering to God’s will.
Now that I’ve had the exhilarating experiences at the River Freedom, I’ve come to a crossroads in my life. Sure it was fascinating to been giving such insights during my personal float trip, but what I do with those messages now is up to me. I can choose to say “that was nice, enlightening, and truthful” or I can decide to do something about the lessons learned. I chose the latter, to carry on and integrate the philosophies of the river experience into my life. What can it hurt? I ask myself.
For one lesson I gained from my river expedition is there is no harm in at least trying because what do I have to lose if I don’t? Well, that is an easy question to answer. If I don’t even try, how will I ever know what I am truly capable of achieving in my lifetime? Say for instance I want to be a rocket scientist (which I do not) yet I could if that was a very real desire within my heart.
By not at least giving credence to the inner calling I could end up short changing the world by the opportunities I intentionally decided to pass by. What a waste and lack of my talents. Why would anyone want to turn his or her back to the richness of life? I don’t, so it’s my intentions to carry on – to forge forward with what began that beautiful day at the river.
As I was drifting off to sleep, I mentally recapped the events of my day. Maybe that is what inspires such deeply moving messages as I sleep. I’ve always had remarkable dreams many of which come to me as messages from my Creator.
Some people say they never dream and my heart goes out to them because dreams, at least in my life, have been instrumental in how I interpret life’s situations, they encourage me to follow my dreams, they awaken my ambitions, make me honestly face events of my past, and sometimes they are just fun to experience.
There was one dream that I remember as if it were yesterday yet it happened nearly 20 years ago. I had given up smoking so it seemed odd that in my dream I was a smoker. I needed to cross a lake to get to my “ever precious” pack of cigarettes, but the only way across was to swim. If I exerted the physical energy, then my reward was to puff away on my Menthol Lights. As I began doing the breaststroke I was amazed at the beauty below the water.
Maybe I hadn’t paid enough attention to things around me however because I was determined to get to my cigarettes, I first needed to experience the magnificence of nature’s beauty. There was coral, kelp, brightly colored fish (none of which bit me) in what appeared to be a massively deep lake. The pristine waters were breathtaking – never had I seen as clearly as I did during that swim. I eventually reached the other side and did enjoy that cigarette. Then the dream ended.
In the morning when I woke up, now mind you it was the middle of winter and I was wearing extra warm clothing because none of my pajamas provided enough warmth, my gray sweatshirt had been disrobed from my body with the exception of my right forearm. I literally had swum out of my sweatshirt! I never took the time to analyze this dream yet it affirmed what I had known all along – I really get into my dreams – or should I say, they really can move me into action.
My dreams are also in living color, which is stunningly beautiful and enhances the messages I receive. When these night visions occur, it’s as if I’m in a room of white billowy clouds listening to God’s stories and wisdom.
On this particular night, the messages were especially vivid and unmistakable. God gave me a specific message – of encouragement and hope – almost as if he was coaching me on improving my life. Here is what I recall:
My precious child, sometimes life is easier to handle, yet other times it is truly rough. Bad like a dog’s bite, mean like a rattlesnake, yet there are rough times that are easier to tolerate. Gratefully, people don’t have “pie in the sky” thinking that life is always gentle as little bunnies or chicks.
So what does this have to do with you? Consider it fodder for your ambitions in life. Things are not always as they seem. For example, The River Freedom allows you to see situations holistically. Those visions can be refreshing at times. There are moments when one gets pushed ashore for what may feel like an eternity – dry parched deserted times – when life is overwhelmingly rough. Then in the rapids of the water they can be just down right mean – thrashing you about without regard for your zapped energy, making it difficult to stay afloat.
A torrential rainstorm can be rough but is becomes tolerable when you find beauty in the rhythm and sounds which keep you engaged despite the hostile environment. You have so much to share from these experiences. Allow me to guide your pen and to move your fingers across the keyboard. I am in your heart encouraging you to carry on. You’re standing at the edge of the cliff. Are you going to make the next move or do you need a push?
If it’s a push you need then you may not like the method or consequences that result. If I were to push you, the sheer force of my voice’s whisper could tumble you to the ground and you could get hurt in the process. It is not in my nature, nor my plan for you to get hurt, yet clearly every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However, if you got things moving forward, while it can be daunting and frightening, I can see you crouching down and moving one inch at a time … hanging onto tree roots, reaching out for help along the way.
You are scaling the cliff’s edge, ever so precariously, ever so slowly, yet ever so steadily. You are making progress and even if it’s just inches at a time, it sure is a lot better than being frozen in time – frozen in place – practically frozen to death by fear.
Going Back to the Beginning
Only recently had I even heard of The River Freedom. While having a casual conversation with a friend she began sharing her story and said I should try it myself. Since I didn’t know what my reactions would be like, I decided that should I make the trek that I wanted to be alone. Not that I am ashamed of crying – for Heaven’s sake no way – but more like if I went and my e expectations were barely satisfied, then I most likely didn’t want to hear about everyone else’s fantastic journeys. Guess you could say I was afraid of not measuring up.
There’s that fear again – it obviously permeates even pore of my being. It’s awful having fear being a constant companion. Perhaps it is a conditional response, like Pavlov’s dogs. Regardless, it is a very real component of my life – one I am not proud of and rarely will fess up about, but who am I kidding? Anyone who knows me even in the slightest can quickly discern that fear is a major driver in my life.
Wanting to eradicate fear from my life (if that is even a remote possibility) I frequently rely upon faith to pull me through the tough times, and am quick to say thank you God when situations turn out better than my fear tries to make me believe will be the outcome.
I would be lost without God – I know there are people in a world that chose to not believe or have turned their back to God because they think he abandoned them. All I know is perception is each person’s reality and without God I cannot make it through life.
Sometimes I wonder if time here on earth is really a living hell – to see how far is a person’s breaking point, how much they can tolerate, what they will resort to when the feelings are unbearable.
Perhaps this mindset has solidified when being graced with the gift of being with two people when their hour has come to leave this world. A glow and peacefulness surround them. Regardless if they are conscious, to see their eyes open wide and a smile comes across their face. It is in that moment when I know they have come face to face with their maker.
Someday I will be there too, but for now my mission is to make progress here on earth. Even though I have a paying day job, all arrows point to my real job as facing my fears and living life in spite of my fears. So with this self-assessment, I decided to given The River Freedom a try.
© Judy Sauer 2005
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