In his first solo CD, Huntley Brown clinked the keys of a grand piano with such magnificent flow that it sounded like the rushing waters of a mighty river. Check it out yourself on You Tube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up1ygB0ZYes I first heard this amazing piece when he was first performing in churches across the United States about 20 years ago. This native born Jamaican had surely witnessed the glory of majestic waters crashing upon the sandy beaches of his homeland. Yes! I can picture it. How about you?
The imagery of a river is meaningful to me. When I was a child I fell into a river when helping groom a trail along the Clinton River in Michigan. It was part of a day camp experience and I was scared then upset because I had to stay in my muddy, wet clothes for the rest of the day! Oh the trials of childhood!
Trials indeed. When I would break down into tears as a young girl my brother, Mike, would taunt me mercilessly. He stood in front of me with the palms of his hands facing upwards and sneered, “cry me a river!!!” I burned with anger. He had no idea the pain underneath those tears that finally spilled down onto my face after holding so much hurt inside: hurt with no safe place to go. I had endured two of three sexual abusers by this age: the damage was done. No river could contain my tears, or at least that is how it felt, should the “dam ever break open.”
Flash forward 40 years. The abusers are now deceased and forgiven; my heavenly Father has filled the hurt with His amazing grace and love. I married my intended beloved and he introduced me to kayaking on the rivers of Fort Wayne, Indiana. We began on the water together in a Hobie Oasis (i.e. a pedal-driven kayak) until I progressed to a solo Think Fit Sea Kayak. By October of 2011, I was in the best physical shape of my life despite an underlying chronic pain condition and had upgraded to a beginner surf ski kayak: the Stellar SR. For almost three years my husband and I had enjoyed kayaking with a local recreational group on Tuesday nights all summer through the early Fall. The wonder of the rivers and waterways we explored together eventually changed my perception of them; after all I had grown up by the polluted Detroit River, downriver from the steel mills! Rivers? Yuck! Boating on the water back then for me meant exploring the Five Great Lakes and clear blue inland lakes of Michigan by speedboat not human-powered slo-mo vessels!
Well who knew that Indiana was so beautiful? We witnessed young deer up close, sneaking to the edge of the water for a drink and Great Blue Herons feeding their young in the tops of trees. Paddling with a gaggle of 20 or more colorful kayaks with double-bladed paddles gently sliding through the water was a really cool sight to see. For the first time in my life I felt “cool!” The evening excursions were sweetened by the chocolate chip and peanut butter monster cookies from a fellow kayaker as the sun was setting over the boat launch at the end of the day. The sunset is simply glorious on the waters of a river winding through the woodland . . .
It sure is a curious thing that the most significant episode of illness in my life would begin after kayaking in a local reservoir and river. The complicated course of events that followed prevented me from all but limited excursions on the water for the next two and one-half years. I’ve now sold both kayaks mentioned here and we have replaced them with solo and tandem outrigger canoes. My balance skills have suffered of late so the Hawaiian-style outrigger provides stability with maximum performance. After all, Steve is a competitive kayak racer so we are grateful to have fast and great gear along with really cool looking boats! Lord willing, I look forward to getting on the water again sometime this year.
And so I was praying, crying out to the Lord recently when the most difficult parts of this illness had led to feelings of despair. Perhaps you read the previous blog entitled, “Psalm 71?” Yeah, I hit rock bottom a couple of nights ago. Within a day the Lord led me through His Holy Spirit to an understanding of where I am and where all of this might be going. This did not come with exacting answers of time or place initially. I came to understand that the process of searching a new treatment option was like that of waters moving from one place to the next. The Lord placed me in the middle of the stream of new research and methodically led me through the steps of discovery to a new treatment modality. I will write more about what it is another time. What I will say here is that I am in awe that there were no barriers along the way just an open current, if you will, of information even when I could not see where the research was leading me. When I finally landed at a decision, like putting-in or taking-out at a boat launch that both sends you on an adventure or returns you home, He showed me the symbolism of a river, glorious. The image of a river made sense to me. The residual pain from my brother’s comments so many years ago finally faded. The Lord gathered my cries for help like a gentle stream at the mouth of a river leading to His heart. I believe there will be a significant measure of healing this time.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
Song of Songs 8:7
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest.
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Tonight I rest along the banks of my Heavenly Father’s river of life.
Thank you, Lord, for carrying me downstream as far and as long as was needed to bring me to this new place of hope. Oh my Lord, forgive me for my desperation, for not trusting You. Help me to trust you, to continue to abide in your streams of righteousness, wisdom and grace. Renew my faith, strengthen my sea legs if You will, until it’s time for me to come home. I love you. Julie