The place on earth where I am happiest is a shallow stretch of the Big Sur river adjacent to river site 127. I lie in my inflatable boat in 12 inches of slowly-flowing water, a damp paperback in my hand, a cold drink tucked against one corner of the boat. The sycamores and redwoods are my walls and archways. The water on the stones is my music. The blue sky is my roof.
On our annual late-summer camping trip, I make it a point to get into my boat and find a sunny spot on the river as soon as we have camp set up. Sometimes the kids play around me. Sometimes they take off with their daddy for the rapids up the gorge, and float past me, bound for adventures downstream.
Last week, you could have found me in my boat in the late afternoon, drifting slowly; no need to tie my boat to a tree as in year's former, because the drought has lowered the water level. Late in the day, sunshine is scarce on the river, so I cherish the moments when I drift into a warm place, and hope I stick. One afternoon, after feeling a bit shivery as I floated through the shadows, I ran aground in just such a place. I took care to hold very still so as not to dislodge myself. I was happy, but a precarious kind of happiness, knowing all the time that one false move could send me downriver.
Five minutes into this delicate bliss, my band of merry boaters came loudly toward me: Jeff, our two girls, and our 10-year old friend Oceana. Oce was ahead of the others.
"Don't touch me!" I called out. "Nobody come near me! I am finally in the perfect sunny spot and I don't want to move." Oce looked at my curiously. Then came Sophia, my eldest. "Don't touch me! Don't dislodge me," I screeched as she held out her hands to me. Again, a curious look, slightly wounded. Down went the rest of the family. Peace was again restored to the river.
About 15 minutes later, the sun shifted and I began to shiver. So I lifted my head to get up and realized something. I was totally and completely wedged in my spot. On the downriver side of my raft, I has hemmed in by a rock and two big logs, forming a triangle-shaped dam. No matter how I had wiggled, no matter which of the kids had bumped into me, I wasn't going anywhere. No wonder the kids were looking at me funny.
Had I ever so much as lifted my head out of the bottom of the boat, I would have seen this, and felt secure. And I would have received the disruption of my family with open arms.
What a fascinating metaphor. How often do I become reactive and irrational because I let fear or insecurity rule over me?
* My husband makes a thoughtless remark (simply because he's distracted, trying to be funny, or just being, well, male), and I allow myself to question his affection and devotion.
* A friend fails to return a phone call and I imagine ill will on her behalf and fear the loss of the friendship.
* A week of high demands from my kids and I begin to imagine myself a slave, a drudge, a woman with no sense of self, no life of her own. The classic martyr.
* A flash of doubt runs through my mind and I fear the loss of my faith, and disqualification from my life work and ministry.
Were I to lift my head in any of these situations -- look at my Father, see the Big Picture of my life -- I would see that I am wedged tightly in a dam of goodness. It is built of solid stones and strong timbers.
My husband chose me and will keep his vows. I have solid friendships with safe women, not perfect, but built on the wise principles of the Bible, the best relationship manual there is. I am a competent, not perfect, mother, and my life is full and rich with mission and purpose both in the walls of my house and outside of them. And running under all of it is the strength of the faith handed to me by generations, which I've embraced since I was a little child. And under that, the love of God, which was mine before I breathed my first breath. He has promised nothing will shake it. He is the Rock I am blessed to be standing on, hemmed in by His love, goodness, and wisdom.
How much less reactive, how much kinder and happier I would be if I remembered how secure I truly am, and stopped treating small disruptions like earthquakes. This morning, I am tired. We are home from vacation and there is no more river to lie in. My girls had a sleepover last night during which the favored game was Musical Beds. There will be a lot of demands today, probably tears, definitely reactivity. I hope I manage it well.
So I lift my head today and look up. I say "Thank you, Father, for making me secure. Hem me in on all sides."