Current carry you, the folk of the riverlands say. It is many things. A greeting. A benediction.
An acknowledgement that the river continues to flow around us, no matter what happens.
To me, tonight, it felt like a warning.
Song of the Current
I’ve never been on a cruise or even a canoe trip.
As a matter of fact, I steer clear of boats as often as possible, thanks to an annoying propensity to motion sickness. But I do remember a day-long float trip that was part of a church camp one summer before middle school. I remember how my friends seemed to enjoy our leisurely day in the sun and how we laughed when the rushing rapids we kept hearing turned out to be a very small waterfall. But what I remember most clearly was how badly my backside hurt by the time we finally arrived back at camp.
Thanks to hidden rocks — and an uncanny ability to be pushed over every one of them — my butt was sorely bruised that day. It was not fun; it was painful. And I haven’t been interested in any float trips since!
I thought about that childhood trip as I read Song of the Current last month. A book about pirates and underwater gods and maybe a little bit of YA (young adult) romance, it relied about as heavily on the movement of water as it did the action of its characters. The currents, the tides: they all worked to move boats and people in directions they might not have gone on their own. And that pull of moon and water and fate forced the characters to decide whether to harness or fight or simply give in to those movements.
The seas are necessary if you want a book about pirates, but all the talk of water and currents and tides were also a clear metaphor for the internal struggles the characters faced as they decided who they wanted to be and how they wanted to live out those choices.
That made me think of my float trip. And it made me think of my life.
I’m writing this on a Thursday afternoon near the end of the month, and I’ve said in frustration both, “How is it already Thursday?!” and “Is it seriously almost the end of the month?!” I find myself saying this pretty much every week and every month, and sometimes — just for good measure — I’ll say toward the end of the day, “Where did the day go? How is it time to pick up the kids already?!”
It seems I just can’t get a grip on my time, as if it’s water flowing through my fisted fingers. (Insert Days of Our Lives narration here, as we all imagine the sands of time slipping through an hourglass…) But this is nothing new. I commiserate with friends and colleagues about how hard it is to be productive in the summertime, but the spring was no different. It seems like every season gets the best of me, disregarding my plans and my schedules and my goals. I keep waiting for a week when everything is “back to normal,” a span of days where everything goes according to plan and follows my steering instead of pulling me behind as I try to catch up.
But this normal week has yet to happen. As I find those underwater rocks in the most painful way possible, I press pause for this emergency or that complication, but time and deadlines and intentions keep on flowing right past me.
Water and currents and rocks hidden under the surface are such an obvious metaphor. I know I’m not painting anything new with those words. I don’t mean to. After all, I think that we’re all in this boat, if you will allow the pun, wondering when the wind will die down and the seas will calm without realizing how far off-course or down-river we’re floating. Unguided, undirected, undeterred — we move through the choppy, chopped-up days and weeks and months, holding on and holding our breaths, withstanding the crashing waves but not realizing until it’s too late that though we haven’t capsized, we’re not headed in the right direction (or any direction) either.
So, what do we do? We can’t stop time any more than the pirates can stop the tides. No, we can’t … but we know the One who can.
The storms that blow in unannounced and knock us around?
The rocks that hide under the dark water and nail us where we’re most sensitive?
The waves that crash and the wind that bellows?
None of that surprises God.
None of it catches Him off guard.
And none of it derails His plans or His timing — or His ability to guide us down the paths we should take.
I think of the stories in the New Testament that tell of Jesus calming the storms after the disciples freak out. Both accounts (in Matthew and in Mark) mention that Jesus was sleeping while the storms raged, not because He didn’t care about the disciples’ safety but because He wasn’t surprised by or scared of a little thing like a storm. He knew it was coming, and He knew it wouldn’t cause the end of His friends. He knew that, if necessary, He could calm the winds and waves with a word.
Have I taken this water metaphor too far? It’s speaking to me, and I hope it’s making sense to you. But even if you’re more of a mountains person than a beach person (Hello! Me, too!), I hope this word picture is encouraging to you.
Because when we can’t stop the wind or the waves, when we get so far off course that we can’t figure out which direction to go, when we are so very tired of the days and weeks and months and years lapping over us and floating past us while we bob aimlessly, that’s when we most need the Lord. Call Him the wind in your sails or the anchor for your life; look to Him for direction or comfort.
Just call Him.
Look to Him.
He is there.
Let’s not let another day, another week, another season go by untethered to Truth, being tossed around and pushed under. Rather than letting the current carry us, let’s hold onto Jesus and let Him carry us through the storms and the sunny days, the scheduled and the unplanned, the normal and the unexpected. Let’s trust in the One who even the winds and the waves obey.
I remember during a time of family transition, holding my weeping four year old. She was frustrated and confused by the disarray and unpredictability of our lives. We were staying with my parents for a short time. When I told my dad (who I absolutely adored) that my daughter didn’t do well with change, he said, “Well, she better get used to it, because life is full of them.” For the only time in my life, I wanted to punch Daddy. But Daddy didn’t lie, and remembering The One who never changes goes a long way in soothing but bumps.
Still not used to it. Maybe someday… :)