Rivers, Rapids, & Waterfalls

What if we took a moment and thought of our journey of life as a river?

A flowing river that meanders around curves and hugs its banks, that goes through winters without freezing and summers without getting too hot at the bottom. A river that has clear water but hits murky sections. A body of water that has purpose, brings joy, and can also be destructive.

When I type that out, I can see how our lives are very much like a river.

We float along on our individual river and many of the days are really smooth. Gorgeous, sun on your back, light paddle smooth.

But rivers also have rapids and waterfalls. The rough parts and the straight up catastrophic parts. Our rivers aren’t mappable. We are at the pressures of the waterflow to take us forward. Yes, we can choose to get to the bank and look ahead for the best paths, but really, we cannot see much farther beyond our own eyes’ limitations.

Rapids come. Waterfalls come. Smooth waters also come.

The thing about rivers is, you cannot control the flow of water. You cannot make water stay only in the calm banks. Humans try really hard to control the water. Really hard. This coming from a girl born in upstate New York, who has traveled the Erie Canal lock system more times that I can count. We try really hard to control the flow of water. We have systems to conquer the climb up the flow of water…but truly, we cannot stop the water flow. Even dams cannot control the heavy weight of it all for too long in bad enough storms.

But God.

What if the rapids we are entering or are currently in, are preventing us from a waterfall ahead?

What if these prayers we have prayed and have gone very unanswered or even solid closed doors, are really saving us from some rocky water we could not survive?

What if this lack of current is preparing us for the next turn?

As humans we feel the need to control it all, thinking we know what is best for us. But really, we do not know all the ways things could play out for us. We do not know what is down stream. We just don’t.

Right now, many of us are not doing our normal things, at all. But I have to believe with everything in my being that there is reason for that. That we are growing from this, or we are being protected from things we are not ready for, or our paths need to change. There are so many possibilities and we just do not know and won’t ever truly know.

But God.

This is where faith is so life giving and powerful. If you have experienced enough closed doors or unanswered prayers and then look back at how it all worked out and realized it is exactly how it should be, then your faith just keeps growing.

My dearest friend, gave me this quote today, not knowing exactly what the words of my heart were:

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.

Buddha

Now, I will not even attempt to argue that Buddha was a Christian, but I do think he was very wise in many ways and was right about this. I can look back at so many things that have not turned out how I expected or are as a direct result from a closed door on some big prayers and I am so grateful for the closed doors and unanswered prayers. The situations have worked out exactly as God wanted and beyond what I could have ever dreamed of.

I firmly believe that we will get to the other side of this current bend in the river, whatever it is for you right now, and we will look back at it and it will all make sense. The hard, the suffering, the good, the bad, the yes, and the no.

This is faith.

Trusting that God is in control and it will workout to match His plan.

That is the hard part…It will match His plan. His plan often does not match your plan. And, if you do not know God, I get why you would have a lot of trust issues with this one. A lot. I only recently really learned to trust in God’s plan because I had made enough of a mess of my own life trying to do it myself. This is hard. I get it. I wrote about finally handing over the reigns in Mountains and Valleys

He takes us along on our river and only He can see ahead. Only He has the map and only He can known why we are in current rapids, slow current, or murky waters.

It does not mean we cannot get frustrated at our current situation for a bit. Have you ever been in a canoe with another grown adult, in water that is 6 inches deep and stuck in muck? Anyone would get frustrated at this. Or at least this anyone did.

But, it also means that we need to surrender and trust the One who knows your river best to lead your course.

And, it also means that we need to be grateful for all the unknown waterfalls He has protected us from.

We have much to be grateful for.

Rivers are beautiful, uncharted, wild, and constant progress forward.

So is life.

Take the journey for all that it is.

Yes, this is a view of a lake. But, we took a long river to get here.

Surrendered.

Mountains and valleys:

We think that life is made of highs and lows, but somehow we forget the climb. The middle. The suffering and the growing.

When you are at the top of a mountain you can see your successes and be awe inspired by the journey you’ve been on and He who has helped you reach this moment.

When you are deep in the valley, you can see the dauntingness of the mountain before you. One can find themselves going deeper or retreating from moving forward.

However, we do not spend enough time talking about where most of our time is spent: the climb. The part when we are not giving up but oh my, is that mountain a hard climb. So hard.

Everyone is experiencing some sort of climb right now. I am not sure what your current situation is, but given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, with rising cases each day, one can assume you are feeling some ripple effects of this season. Our family is feeling it. Our family, as with many other families, are experiencing other life crises at the same time, because as it turns out, other horrible things can also happen in a pandemic.

Everything has gotten pretty “a lot” lately. Maybe this is you too. You know it could be worse, but you also know it could be better. In fact, you know it can be better because it was better just a few weeks ago and now you do not know what a few weeks from now will look like. For me, that is daunting.

There is a Matthew West song that just echos so much of what society wants us to feel and the contradiction to what our hearts are screaming. My favorite lyrics are:

I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine, oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine

but I’m not, I’m broken

And when it’s out of control, I say it’s under control

but it’s not

and you know it.

Matthew West -Truth Be Told

Things are not fine right now. They just aren’t. Everything is out of control and I am broken. I cannot pretend everything is okay. Maybe you feel this too.

I tried to control it. I tried to change the plans I created and make new plans. I tried to fix what I thought I could fix. But everything just keeps piling on. Piling on in a level that has become almost comical because of the sheer ridiculousness of all. the. things.

And turns out…this one is bigger than me. So much bigger than me.

I keep running to God. Not in my structured routine of daily quiet time every morning. But constantly. I have run to Him more than ever before. And then I was reminded of Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

I have to surrender.

Surrendering is not giving up. It is knowing when you have done your part and now have to release it to the one who can do what you cannot.

God. God is in control. I firmly believe that God does not cause bad things. However, God does allow you to walk through the hard with Him beside you, to grow you.

He is in control. He is sovereign. He works all things for good.

So, I surrender. I give it to God. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, quite literally. However, I have to anchor to the truth that there is a bigger picture here and God will clear the way. He will clear the path on this hard climb. He will move us forward. Otherwise, if I do not anchor to this truth, I know I will fall off the mountain into a deep valley. I have been there before. I am not going back today.

So I surrender. Maybe you need to surrender too.

It is okay for things to not be okay. Stuff is hard right now. Hard Hard. Not broken dishwasher hard, but lots of things are crumbling and normal is so far away, hard. Some things will never return to how they were before. Hard.

But, keep climbing. Please keep climbing. Stop trying to find the path yourself, but surrender and let God clear your path.

We will eventually get out of this hard middle and we can be at the top of this mountain again. No climb is without it’s struggles. However, there is nothing wrong in admitting it is hard.

Surrender. This battle is bigger than us.

And to check out Matthew West’s beautiful reminder to let the truth be told, check out this video. Listening to our kids sing this song in the car today reminded me how beautiful it is to show our kids the importance of not putting on facades but sharing our struggles.

To read more like this, check out Suffer well, A Weary World Rejoices, Looking for the bird seed, Showing up for the lesson, and Mountains and Valleys.