Power. Beauty. Change, often slowly. Calm, eventually.
A meandering stream, gentle and pure. Strength and sound as the river transforms into a waterfall. Then, a peaceful near silence as the river continues on.
Each waterfall is different. Some are wider, some taller, some roar, some are gentle.
As different as we are as people.
A river follows the path of least resistance, heading downhill, away from its source. Sometimes over an unexpected waterfall.
It never remains in the same place.
A big splash
The river of my life flowed smooth for many years. A great job, a healthy family with three growing boys, purpose in life, community involvement, some recreation and exercise … it seemed too good to be true. It was easy, too easy, to just coast through life, engaging but only to a point, then pulling back before wounds were exposed.
Until a huge waterfall changed the course of my river.
Losing a job I’d had for 24 years will do that.
I’ve written about that before, several times. We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary of that event this spring. It feels like a lifetime ago, with the river of my life twisting and turning repeatedly. Many of you experienced this as well, in varying degrees.
My life sometimes feels out of control, emotionally anyway, heading downstream to an eternal destination that features “the river of the water of life” (Rev. 22:1). It’s easy to get caught up in the struggles of this world and lose sight of what it’s all about.
Shortly before we left Rockford, Ill., I visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens there. It was peaceful, with meandering streams and soothing water formations that the Japanese love. It provided a momentary calm in the months before we moved to Elyria, Ohio, during the last polar vortex five years ago.
In Elyria the stream of my life has taken a couple more abrupt turns. After my 24-year job ended, I never held a job more than 2.5 years (twice). One job lasted eight weeks. I’m now retired, although it still seems funny to say that because I’m “only” 58 years old. (My dad retired younger than that, actually, so maybe it’s not so unusual.)
Hard to see the future
I took one waterfall photo through trees. I should have known the camera would focus on the branches and leave the waterfall blurry. I thought about going back there and re-taking the photo, but decided not to.
Sometimes the storms of life are blurry, aren’t they? We don’t see them coming. We don’t know why. We feel the fall, then the hard splash of the river as it crashes into the pool at the base of the waterfall.
We submerge, and wonder if we will ever resurface.
We eventually do, don’t we?
But we resurface in a new place, a different place. We are changed.
We didn’t ask for change, but it came anyway.
Some changes are exciting. Some are not. Some are big and powerful. Others are more languid.
Each of us experiences the wide range of powerful and calm, the river always moving, always going somewhere, never static, never staying in the same place.
Some of us travel farther than others do, but all of us travel.
That’s what rivers do.
Can any of us see where we are going? Really see?
I don’t think so.
The greatest adventure
Yes, we see heaven, for those of us headed that way. (It’s a destination worth pursuing for everyone.)
But on Earth, the journey to get there … we often can’t see around the next bend.
I hear sermons and speeches sometimes that say the Christian journey should be the most exciting path to travel.
It should be. Jesus offers adventure like no one else does. Serve orphans and widows. Take our faith to different lands, or to the next-door neighbor. Meet the needs of others. Pray. Worship. Don’t accumulate worldly possessions for their own sake, but to share with others. And so on.
So often the waterfalls in our lives aren’t those types of adventures. We tend to fall over them, rather than willingly jump into them. If we would jump into a waterfall of our own volition, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a tall one, with such a painful landing.
How prepared are we for life’s falls, twists and turns? They’re inevitable, so why does no one help us navigate them?
O but the Bible does. It’s all in there, really.
I still fall hard because my faith isn’t what it should be. Just because I read the Bible doesn’t mean I’m prepared for life’s waterfalls, big or small, clear or blurry. What do I do with the information I learn? In the words of a preacher, how do I apply it?
During this week’s polar vortex here in Ohio, a friend who has school-age children collected food for dozens of children who might otherwise go hungry because they get their best meal of the day in school. She organized that food collection in her kitchen spur-of-the-moment, and gave groceries to more than a dozen families as well. Not for her own self-satisfaction, but because she saw a need and decided to fill it.
That’s adventure. That’s faith in action.
If the world saw more Christians doing stuff like that, perhaps we’d be more likable, more believable, more like a river worth jumping into.
Even in the middle of winter.