Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The River Ride - Part II

This post is Part II of my river trip story, tubing down the Virgin river outside of Zion National Park in Utah. The posting just before this one begins the story; this posting ends it. At the end are the Bible verses from Isaiah with which we began, ended and interspersed the story as I read it to our church.

When I surrendered, I could be on the river without fighting the experience. The river was flowing, I couldn’t get off. The rocks kept coming, and I was aching, and I could do nothing about it. So, I relaxed as much as I could given my exhaustion. I trusted that I was safe, ultimately. I just wanted the journey to end.
Finally, the first bridge came. I looked eagerly on the side where the road would be, but there was no path, no place to exit. Lucy and I kept floating and bobbing down the river. She was delighted, and I was dismayed. But once more, I settled into just being on the river, and surrendered to the experience. I felt relief that I had seen that first bridge, and dismay that the trip was only half over.

The second and third bridges came sooner than I’d hoped, having been told that the first bridge was halfway. Not soon enough to keep me from being completely exhausted, but soon enough that I didn’t give up. How could I? The river was flowing and carrying me along. And then, finally, almost three hours after we had left, the trip was over, and Lucy and I climbed out of the river and waited for our ride. In my journal later that day, I wrote that it was the best and longest “log flume ride” I’d ever been on, despite my exhaustion.

Later, I thought about that moment when I surrendered to the river, to the experience. I stopped fighting and let it flow, let myself go with it. And that surrender was healing, not of my physical body, but of my spirit and soul. Like life, the river kept going, and my surrender was part of living and healing and knowing that I could survive even the sharpest rocks and deepest drops.

Thinking about this birthday river trip, I see it as a metaphor for my life, and especially my current life changing journey with the cancer diagnosis. There are tranquil times, when I have no cancer symptoms, and my recovery from the surgery is going well. There are rocky, rocky rapids when a CT scan is scheduled, and I worry about the cancer growing and about needing treatment. There are times when I surrender well to the challenges of my illness. Then, as on the river, I trust that I am safe, that I can live in the moment, and that I can savor the life I have. Then a body twinge throws me back into the rocks, and again I am challenged to surrender.

All of us, I think, are on a river trip, the river we call life. There are tranquil times, and at our best, we savor and appreciate them. And many of us encounter rapids and rocks and challenges we feel unprepared for. Our challenges may be physical illness like mine, or the difficulties in relationship with a spouse or family member or colleague or dear friend. We may experience addiction, failure with work, or deep disappointment with our parenting or in our children. We may find that growing older is harder than we ever thought. We grieve the loss of loved ones, those who have loved us and held some of our history. Whatever the rocky places in our rivers, we are challenged to surrender, to turn over to God our need to be in control, and to trust that God holds us safe. God offers healing, if not in body, in spirit, mind, soul, and heart, if we can ask for God’s company on the journey.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
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.
For I am the LORD, your God”

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