We have journeyed more than halfway through this Lenten season. I have somehow forgotten about that. For me, these past days have felt not robotic, as much as detached. Left foot, right foot. It’s been so much, so fast, so unbelievable. Here we are now, finding ourselves and this world of ours halfway through the wilderness. It’s not possible to make time, so for me and maybe for you as well, I’m feeling the need to be intentional about marking moments and seeking a space for my soul to have a chance to catch up.
One of my life-symbols is the image of the river. When I was in seminary one of my professors kept his evaluations of me pretty simple. Time and time and time again he would say to me, “when do you think you will quit bucking the river?” Or “why do you spend so much time bucking the river?” Or “is this how you want to spend your life…” And in these past couple of days (has it really been measured in days and not in years?) I have seen old patterns coming back. Bucking the river.
I’ll never know what he meant for me. I’ve been carrying his words with me now decades later. For me, for these days in which I find myself, for these days in which we are all living, I now am exploring what it would mean to not buck the river. What would it mean if instead of doing my best to stand knee deep in a strong current, what if I would walk on through to the other side? Or better yet, what if I would allow myself to be taken where the current is headed?
Back in the day I taught canoeing at Girl Scout camp in Arkansas. So, I know a little bit about being on top of the water. I know that there can’t be a total surrender or giving up. I have learned the hard way that to make your way successfully down river, one needs to go either a little bit faster or slower than the current is going. By setting an international pace one is better able to steer and avoid being repeatedly caught between that ever-present rock and hard place.
A good friend has told me, you know what you know when you know it. I think my bucking the river is about that old fight-or-flight thing. We don’t yet know what will happen in the next couple days or weeks. There is that deep urge in us to react and to do something to protect ourselves from what is not yet.
And… we continue, you and I on this Lenten journey through the wilderness. We continue making our way along a path that may have been traveled before, but never in the way we are traveling it now. We travel this path that shapes us, stretches us, focuses us in ways that are new, brand new. For me, this life lesson circles back today. I feel like I am planting myself in the center of the river, I can feel the current pushing harder and harder and I feel myself (already) growing weary. My friend also is known to say at times, the best times: to what end? How does it serve me today to buck the river? How does it serve me to be angry or miserable or grasping for control? What if instead…if just for today…what if instead I turn and lean back into the water? What if I begin to pay attention with my heart and eyes opened differently? What if I use all the strength and skills that have gotten me to this moment to enter into the water, not push against it? What if my focus is on what is right here around me and before me? What if my prayer is less about defiance and more about being alive and being held by something much greater than myself? What if I learn to trust in some brand-new way?
The river is all round me, the choice today is mine. (Thanks, Fred Hall)