LESSONS FROM THE RIVER

The question arose among the oddly diverse ladies whom God has scooped me together with…whether God has a specific will for your life or a general will.  Whether, if you have before you, for example, two equally appealing job opportunities, God would tell you, “Only one choice is my will for you,” or if He would say, “They’re both good; go for it!” The specific argument says, “There is one person you must meet or one thing to learn so you must choose correctly or you’ll miss God’s will,” while the broader debate says, “God is going to get you where He wants you to be, so relax and enjoy the ride.”

It’s not my intent to defend either argument here, but I will share my ponderings while recently kayaking a fairly tame section of theNew River.  (And let me just add here that I have determined, through a couple bloody incidents, that it is not God’s will for me to engage in death-defying kayak expeditions!)

So, picture me in my orange kayak, leaned back, bare feet propped on the cockpit rim, just watching the blue sky and the trees, listening to the birds. My girlfriend and I are chatting about recipes and dogs and deep spiritual things while the guys lollygag behind fishing. Neither of us is paying much attention when we hit one of those tricky ripples—the kind where you need to choose your course or, oops, you’ll snag on a hidden rock. I’m better prepared when we hit the next ripple, and I maneuver into what I think is the fastest current only to have my friend pull ahead of me with no apparent effort.

Aha, I think, here’s life in the Spirit: a river!  For a time, you get to glide along in perfect contentment, but eventually, you’ll hit a ripple, and you may have only a split-second to choose your course. One course may be more fun (and potentially get you wet!); another may be safe, but boring. You can get snagged for a time through no fault of your own; you can work hard and still fall behind.

You get the picture, I’m sure.

Here’s what happened next:  we floated to the only Class One on this section of river, more like a single-step fall with lots of rocks.  Not death-defying, by any means, but it can be tricky.  My girlfriend was paddling ahead and tried a new course through the rapids, toward the right-hand side; she slammed sideways against a large rock.  My husband took the easy route along the left bank and went back to fishing. Having been this way before, I knew the course most likely to be fun, and I hit it and laughed and hollered my way through, near the center of the river. Turned around to check on my friend, and she was hard-stuck, wedged against the boulder by the current.

I started paddling toward her, making some progress against the current, when she yelled, “Help! I’m taking on water!”  My husband looked over nonchalantly and declared, “Got a fish on; be with you in a minute.”  Her hubby, still above the rapids and tying on a hook, was totally unconcerned.  I paddled harder, muttering to myself to wear shoes next time, because we both were surely going over if I tried to knock her off the rock.  Luckily, with a great heave, she pushed herself out of peril, and no rescue was needed.

My point is that I was willing to help my friend, even if it meant getting wet.

Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, quotes her pastor as saying, “…the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the Healer comes. You sit with people…you bring them juice and graham crackers.”

What the river taught me is this: whether you’re waiting to hear from God on His specific will or stepping ahead in unperturbed confidence, listen well to what the Spirit says in 1 Peter 4:7-10.  No matter where you are, God’s will is for you to pray and be kind and serve with your gifts.

COLDWATER THANKS

Easter Sunday, I had an epiphany of sorts.  My Holy Week had been everything but holy—stressful, worrisome, irksome, sick cat, hurt foot—you name it.  To top that off, gratitude was giving me a hard time.  Not that I didn’t truly desire to express my thanks; it just seemed, in light of the magnitude of My Lord’s gift to me, His awful sacrifice to save my worthless hide, that any thanks that I could muster would just be too pathetic. A mountain-top experience, it was not.

But on Easter afternoon, late, after church and family time and naps, my husband and I rousted ourselves from the couch and went for a drive.  We took a back road my husband had never been on, one of those narrow, winding roads meandering up the mountain.  I had driven it, once, a dozen or so years ago, when our ladies’ group had an overnight retreat in a fabulous borrowed house.

Wondering whether I would recognize the driveway leading to the house, I kept glancing at the amazing view toward Pilot Mountain and remembering the spectacular dawn I had witnessed from that house.  Then, around a curve, quick glimpse of the house, and yes, that ridiculous forty-five degree turn-back up the steep driveway!

I mused about the ladies who were on that retreat—a few I haven’t seen in years; one shared her struggles and still hasn’t gotten her act together; another shared her heartache, and still bears that burden daily. I pondered whether anything we did that weekend mattered.

And then I had a flashback.  Friday afternoon, before the retreat began, my friend Sherry and I went ahead to prepare things.  Stirred up two pots of spaghetti sauce, as I recall.  Laid things out just so. I remember walking the halls of that huge, two-story home, praying as I went, and knowing me, simultaneously ruminating over all the many details for the evening ahead.

As I passed one of the bedrooms, through the open door, I spotted Sherry on her knees, praying.  On her knees, in every bedroom, praying over the ladies who would be arriving soon.  The fact that most of those ladies never went to bed is inconsequential in Kingdom currency.

My epiphany:  Those prayers mattered then, and are in effect even today. This is how to thank my Savior.  Do the things that matter, the things that last forever.  Do it especially for messy people; do it faithfully whether or not you ever see the outcome.

Jesus called it giving a cup of cold water in His name.  Doesn’t have to be something big or dramatic.  Saying “thank you” to Him just means being intentional about the things I do in His name.  I’ll leave the outcome and the rewards to Him.

So…Ladies, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  We’ve journeyed through twelve weeks—an annual quarter—of AS YOU GO.  Originally, I pictured a postcard-sized booklet, with tear-out sheets for ladies to carry daily “as they go.” Perhaps an online venue is what God pictured instead.

What’s in store next?  I’m not entirely sure what He has in mind.  I can see a series on healthy living, but my desire is to follow wherever He leads.  Meanwhile, if you started late or skipped weeks, perhaps He will lead you to catch up.

I thank you ladies, some whom I’ve never met, from the bottom of my heart.  Your enthusiasm has blessed me greatly.  Let’s meet back in a couple of weeks and find out where the next journey will take us.

Your Sister-in-Christ, Sheri