River…you’re my oldest, most loyal friend.
Our relationship goes back years – actually, decades. You filled the gaps for me during a lonely childhood by understanding my fears, cheering me on, and challenging me to invite risks. You celebrated my greatest discovery: love. And when Jesus reached into my heart and took up residence there, you mysteriously reinforced my faith in Him.
Today as your silent observer surrounded by lush growth and wet green smells, I feel encouraged all over again. Tall swamp reeds playfully tickle my shoulder. An energetic breeze rustles the tip-tops of the tree-canopy overhead. Your eager current sweeps over my bare toes, rush-rushing without hesitation. A penetrating streak of mid-day sunshine descends from behind a cloud to warm a row of log-sitting turtles. Raccoon paw-prints stare up at me from the mud as a reminder of a recent crayfish fest.
My outstretched legs rest on the cool gray slate of an all-too-familiar rock. Your practiced burbling fills the air as I gnaw the end of a piece of sweet marsh grass. I chew thoughtfully, while its seed head dances with nervous energy like the tail of a jumpy fox squirrel. Eventually the pulp begins to shred, and I pick another stem.
So River…let me make sure of something. There is never any turning back..is there? Life must continue to march forward. Your example says to flow steadily, always in the same direction, always with a vision to reach your destination.
It seems you trust God to not only define your destiny, but also guide and give purpose to each day’s journey. In the shallows, your noisy silver-white burbles busily polish ordinary stones into symmetrically smooth spheres of speckled red and gray granite - or pearly-white quartz. Deep, swirling undercurrents shape ongoing identity and carve your own unique riverbank.
In fact, the process of movement defines you, doesn’t it? Your momentum is purposeful. I must remember what it means to keep on – to persevere.
I gaze down the bank, past the rock bed where I used to hunt for huge clamshells. Another river waits around the bend, right where those big boulders jut out into the water with their craggy faces pocked by aging cracks. You two will intuitively merge and flow as one body toward a juncture with yet another of your same kind, and another. Eventually massive volumes of accumulated water will plunge headlong into the Ocean, that Great Pool where headwaters join to become one.
Still, that is not the only reality. Over on the other bank beneath low-hanging willow branches a lazy waterhole lies tucked away like a musty pot of dark, aromatic German ale. Fish feed and water beetles skim the surface, secure and comfortable with your provisions for them. Such holes define you as well, for life is more than a narrow focus on the end goal.
Today you babble energetically like a cheerful kindergartener warmed by summer’s glow. However, after a series of spring showers your swift, muddied waters often churn with Goliath-like roars to bury this rock and everything five feet above it. During droughts in autumn only a tiny remnant of whispering water sneaks its way in trickles through your lowest spots. Winter encourages silent ice to creep along your edges.
As is true with all life on planet Earth, the only sure thing is change. Your water levels rise and fall as the seasons progress; your very existence, as well as your circumstances, hinge on provisions of rain and snow. Without millions of ongoing raindrops and frozen snowflakes falling from the sky, you would transform into a skinny creek – or even more dramatically, a barren desert trail of dry, parched stones. I shudder to think what that might mean: the end of life, the end of renewal.
Oh River…I don’t know how to say good-bye to you one more time. Very soon I must return to a distant place where seemingly stale habits await my senior-citizen lifestyle. I will drive down an asphalt freeway with hundreds of other cars, exit the ramp leading to the grocery store, wander down can-and-box-lined aisles beneath fluorescent lights and blaring music, redeem my coupons, and swipe the bar on my plastic credit card.
But that’s not all. I also anticipate a return to the joy and comfort of Christian fellowship and service; to ongoing discovery defined by One who provides for my journey while leading me to Himself. Thank you for reminding me, River.
I’ll be back.
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