Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hope Floats

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Psalm 23:1-3 (MSG)

It was a cool but sunny June morning on the bank of the Potomac river. A place I sometimes visit before work to gain some perspective through solitude. Privacy to reflect in a natural setting was especially important as I began to emerge from a season of wilderness wandering. God was using that time by the river to show me why I had been wandering in the first place. Basically, it's because I needed some 'heart surgery.'

As I walked onto the bridge towards Virginia I saw a gentle and peaceful glen. A deer that I noticed a week before was back drinking the cool morning water and eating the crisp undisturbed grass. Two great blue herons were also present to welcome the new day. But for some reason I found myself drawn towards the rapids on the river—the motion, the movement is what I like to call The Flow.

As I approached, I noticed a family of Canada Geese in the jagged yet peaceful blanket of granite at the riverside. The father was leading the way with the mother hanging back just a bit to encourage the slowest of their brood of seven goslings. All, even the babies, were traversing the formidable rocks with an ease and familiarity that would have left me tripping and slipping far behind had I tried to keep up.

As I watched this scene play out I noticed where they were headed—towards the river, the rapids (We had torrential downpours the night before so the river basin was full and fully moving. This produced dangerous rip currents in the river and there are signs warning swimmers to “Keep Out.”) My first thought as the “little seven” plopped into the river one by one behind their father was, “Wait, you're headed straight into the flow of this fast moving river, surely your little seven will perish, surely you can't...”

But they entered, single file at first, then the mom edged to the left of the line, letting it pass, so she could give support and encouragement to young ones at the back. The parents craned their necks a few times to paddle into the current, and then they all disappeared under the bridge towards the monuments, the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport and points south.

So with planes ascending above me, headed north following the river towards their flight paths, and the geese floating south below me—on the surface of the flow, riding the current but safe from the rip currents underneath them—I saw that this perfect little gaggle of goslings was safe. They were safe from the dangers of the flow because their father knew the way. He had maneuvered these rocks and rapids before and had, no doubt, guided other young ones through the rough current to a safe shore. One with lush river grass and a bountiful breakfast of “roots and young sprouts.”1

And so it is with our Heavenly Father...

He created the flow. It looks and feels dangerous, and it is. But as we follow Him over the rocky jagged shore and into the rapids of our lives we are often unsure as to how the journey “south” (and it often feels that way—like everything has “gone south” in our lives) will turn out.

But if my experience in, and emergence from, a years-long trip on white water, maneuvering sharp jagged shores with my two little goslings and wife in tow are any indication, then we can have hope. We can rest assured that a lush green river bank with a bountiful blessing awaits all of us that are riding the rip currents right now...all of us that cling to the leading and promises of our Heavenly Father...all of us who believe that Hope Floats.

Question: As a “head goose” in your family, at your work or in your community who do you follow (and how) when the white water comes? How can you help your “goslings” know and believe that Hope Floats?

Prayer: Thank you Heavenly Father for your beautiful metaphors, the help and hope you provide through the rapids of life and the gift of growth and peace that can come from those wilderness adventures. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, and I wouldn't trade it for anything this world has to offer. Please help us to honor you as we navigate the waves today and in the future. Amen.”


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