In the River

A story is told of an old man who falls into a raging river just above the rapids.  His friends frantically reach for him as the current carries him toward danger.  Helpless they watch as his lifeless body is plunged into the whitewater.  Racked with grief they race to the bottom to retrieve his body.  At the bottom of the rapids, however, they watched stunned as the old man stands and walks towards them.  “How?” pleads their question from disbelieving eyes. “Simple,” says the old man, “become one with the river and it carries us safely through the difficult passages.”

I believe this story and repeat it often, but I confess that in my own life I am most often found on the shore remarking in awe about the water’s power. More dangerous still, when I am sucked into the currents of life, I make the mistake of holding on to branches or rocks or anything stationary to which I can cling.

The problem is that while I am clinging, the river is pulling.  And with my energies rooted to the stationary, the current can be both painful and also incredibly destructive.  Broken bones, mangled bodies. And I curse the current for it’s brutal assault.

The real problem with the current is that I can’t control it.  I can’t even pretend to control it or convince myself that I am controlling it.  The current comes from a place beyond what can be seen and moves with a passion that is not ours to own.  We are merely spectators along the way and our choices, should we enter the river, are whether we will be carried by the current or casualties in its wake.

In the rare moments when I am able to accept life on life’s terms, to float in the water with my hands resting at my side, I confess that the current has been trustworthy.  The bruises and scars that are mine from the river are, every one, a testimony not to the current itself but rather to my struggle against it.

And admittedly I have plenty of bruises bearing witness to too much clinging. Yet as I stand at the bottom I am almost surprised to realize that despite the bruises I have been safely carried to this new landing.  As is most of life, learning to be at one with the current is about progress not perfection. I am grateful for a pause in the action and a new day in which to practice.

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