Sunday, August 21, 2011
People I know often refer to life as a journey. Some days the road is paved, other times you must navigate through pot holes, or debris left by others before you.
You can go weeks or months travelling a path that is clear and well defined, only to wake up one day finding yourself off the beaten path, unsure in which direction you were headed. We come to forks in the road, or even dead ends. We walk in pairs, groups, crowds… but often alone. Sometimes we stop moving all together.
Recently, my path came to a river.
Looking up, I could see that the path continued on the other side. While we were not talking about a Mississippi-sized waterway, it was daunting none the less. The current moved rapidly downstream toward a place beyond my vision.
Turning back was an option, though in the moment I could not recall exactly how I had gotten to this place. The path that lay across the bank was the natural progression—but only if I could transverse the raging river that flowed with such force and purpose.
How many times in life do we face such decisions? When our purpose collides with fear and uncertainty.
My decision made, I stepped into the water. My sneakers and sock quickly becoming weighted with the cool water. By the time I was waist-deep, the force of the current had already announced its desire to take me downstream… away from that safe haven of beachhead that sat there so inviting.
Another moment of indecisiveness was squashed as I dove in, swimming toward the distant bank… that path… my destiny.
A direct route was not an option, for the current matched me stroke for stroke.
When I fought to swim upstream, a vision from my childhood came to mind—of a young boy struggling with the undertow at the Jersey Shore, fighting the strength of the ocean to stay in front of the life guard chair and away from the life-threatening jetty.
Here, the path on the opposit bank represented my lifeguard. And while it took a while, I soon found that I could tack like a sailboat—swimming upstream then cross-stream—bringing me closer to my destination. Yet I needed to swim harder. Swim faster. Swim with even more determination. For the current never took a break. Never took a breath. The river was relentless in its purpose.
Even as the path grew closer, its firm-footing seemed further from my grasp. My arms grew weary. My legs were losing their strength. And in that moment of sheer fear and desperation, I did what I should have done long before stepping into the water. I cried out to God.
“Father,” I prayed. “Give me the strength. Give me the power. Give me the courage and determination I need to swim harder. The power to swim faster. Please God. Please. Answer my prayers.”
And to my surprise, the voice of my creator responded. The God of the universe spoke in the quiet of my heart.
“My son,” God called. “I am the river."