Our river, the rambling one below the house, has finally broken free of winter’s tight hold.
We wait months for this moment and when it finally takes place, all the world rejoices. Or so it seems.
So long has the reign of ice and snow kept our woods starkly silent, that the river’s sound is almost deafening. Outside, inside, all the ear hears is the rapid movement of water from there to here and onward. A constant flow, purposeful and without ceasing. See how rocks don’t snare it? See how fallen tree limbs are either swept along or carelessly passed by? See how it follows a course without question or fret? Never does the river say, maybe life would be better if my bend went the other way.
And for all these reasons, I could never be a river. Even if I desired it, and I often do, I am in no way river-like.
Over tea and books the other night, Andy and I’s talk fell to one of the many decisions that looms over our family. I can’t remember now what it was. Maybe whether or not to continue homeschooling Sparrow. Maybe whether or not to raise pigs this year. Maybe whether or not to build a slab foundation for our new house or have
And of course, I started eddying around and around (my only similarity to a river) whatever the question was, making up my mind and promptly talking myself out of it. I’m sorry, I said, I ruminate on things way too much.
Ruminate is just a kinder way of saying worry. This, my husband’s stinging reply.
He didn’t mean to sting. He was just being honest. He was just being right.
Because I worry about everything. Correction, I fret. Correction again, I agonize.
I am not river-like. I trip over rocks and break bones or worse, catch my ankle between two stones and render myself unmovable. And never in my life (with the exception of my decision to marry Andy) have I ever been on a course and not, over and over, questioned the direction.
My husband is a river. Somedays, I am washed away in his current and it is good. In those moments, I don’t worry. Instead, I am free to notice my surroundings: the sky, the trees and grass, the birds, my children, my friends. I am capable of seeing the abundance that is my life.
But then some stone.
And I am stuck.
We named our son Caleb River. Caleb because his biblical namesake was fearless. Regarding the occupying enemy of the promised land, Caleb quieted the raging worry of God’s people and spoke bold encouragement to them. Because he had a ‘different spirit’, one that trusted the Lord wholly, one that wasn’t given to fits of fear.
And River because we want him to be river-like.
Luci Shaw, in her poem States of Being, wrote:
Better to be soft as water,
easily troubled, with
at least three modes
of being, able to shape-
shift, to mirror, to cleanse,
to drift downstream,
To roar when he encounters
Oh, how I long to roar when I encounter the rock! Instead, I whimper and succumb to its impossible strength.
If I were a river, I would know my Source and I would know my End. And I would delight in the journey my waters took to get there.
And those stones would become my Ebenezer. My remembrance. My monument to God’s faithfulness along the way.
Oh, Lord, grant me a river’s heart.