• lenten journal: god is a river

    by  • March 5, 2009 • Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    I’m tired.

    This has been a busy week at work and I’ve been working hard to finish the ten gallons of soup for Empty Bowls tomorrow night, which meant I spent every spare moment of the last couple of days chopping and dicing until my hands are rough and cracked. Though dinner went well tonight, I spent the whole evening feeling a step behind and out of sync.

    I’ve now been sitting in front of a blank page for the last hour and a half, trying to figure out what I had to say on a night like this. I got tired of staring and went looking for what others had to say, which led me to this video clip posted, on Cecilia’s blog, of folksinger Peter Mayer singing his song (new to me), “God is a River.” I’ve included the lyrics to read as you listen.

    In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life
    I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find
    A boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast
    Where I might let the fretful water of this river ‘round me pass

    And so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place
    A trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe
    From the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine
    And I prayed to it “protect me” and the rock replied

    God is a river, not just a stone
    God is a wild, raging rapids
    And a slow, meandering flow
    God is a deep and narrow passage
    And a peaceful, sandy shoal
    God is the river, swimmer
    So let go

    Still I clung to my rock tightly with conviction in my arms
    Never looking at the stream to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
    But the river kept on coming, kept on tugging at my legs
    Till at last my fingers faltered, and I was swept away

    So I’m going with the flow now, these relentless twists and bends
    Acclimating to the motion, and a sense of being led
    And this river’s like my body now, it carries me along
    Through the ever-changing scenes and by the rocks that sing this song

    God is a river, not just a stone
    God is a wild, raging rapids
    And a slow, meandering flow
    God is a deep and narrow passage
    And a peaceful, sandy shoal
    God is the river, swimmer
    So let go

    God is the river, swimmer
    So let go

    One of the ways I was taught to unpack dreams is to look at what happened in the dream from the perspective of each person or thing in the dream. As a youth minister, I found it was a great approach to looking at different Bible passages – especially the parables. What did it feel like to be the prodigal son, the father, the eldest son, the servants, the pigs? What I like best about the approach to either subject is it calls me to look at the interconnectedness of the metaphors, and the consequences of interpretation.

    Mayer’s image isn’t new. He’s leaning into those who have sung before him:

    like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace
    overall victorious in its bright increase
    perfect yet it floweth fuller everyday
    perfect yet it groweth deeper all the way

    What he does with the image that knocks me out is put us in relationship with the metaphor. His is not abstract poetry; we are called into the action with an amazing line:

    God is a river, swimmer

    He names God, and then he names us. The metaphor would mean something different were we fishing, or farming, or building bridges, or (as Loggins and Messina used to sing) watching the river run. But in this story, we are in the water — not taking from or adding to or going around or sitting it out; we are in the river, swimming.

    I’m grateful for such an image to feed my dreams tonight.

    Peace,
    Milton

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    One Response to lenten journal: god is a river

    1. Elisa
      March 8, 2009 at 6:25 am

      This is a really fantastic song. I’ve been stressed all week, and this is a good reminder how God’s in control. Thanks.

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