“The Rivers We Cross”
By Timothy W. Tron
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,…” – Isaiah 48:1-3
Before me, the mountains lay shrouded in the mist.
Grandfather remains hidden under dark skies. He doesn’t want to be bothered today. The rain had cleared long enough for a short hike, so here I stand watching as clouds like waves on the ocean, crash against the shoreline. In calm, quiet, but formidable stealth, each one smashes against the bulwark of the peaks yet to be engulfed by the coming storms. Somewhere below the mist lay the sleepy little village of Collettsville. Along its main street lined with mill town houses the John’s River flows, clear and cold. Part of my walk had already taken me past its banks confirming that the water was once more, clear of the day’s rains. My mind thought of the recent journeys to church and how for three Sundays in a row I had crossed the river to reach the other side. It became part of my personal challenge. As I explained it to Pastor Joe, it made me appreciate being able to make it to church. In life, we often take for granted the ease with which we worship and all that has made that possible. This summer’s journey had made me more aware of this fact than ever before. So, as part of my weekly walk to Sunday morning preaching, fording the John’s River became my rite of passage, so to speak. Each time I encountered a new twist, a new challenge. Each time, there were the difficulties making it out of the river and up the steep bank on the town side of the water. It made me think of how we often cross our own rivers.
Both my mother and father have gone on. They have both crossed their River of Jordan to reach that far distant shore. Each passed in their own way, but it was my blessing to have had the opportunity to say goodbye to each of them before they stepped into the current and began their journey across; God made that possible. I was not there on the other side to welcome them home, but in some instance, I know they both had steep embankments up which they had to struggle; death did not come easy. So, it is for many who have died, and for those times we pray that the Lord give them comfort in their time of crossing. We would want the same. As Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, he too felt the painful anguish of death’s sting, but he was not defeated by it. From life to death we all shall pass, but where we finish is up to us; a choice that must be made here on this side of that beautiful flowing strand.
“A decision many fail to make in time,” I thought to myself, standing there admiring God’s beauty even in the midst of an approaching storm.
The stillness was broken by a shrill snort. Behind me on a tree-covered peak beyond where I stood, a buck huffed irreverently at me; my presence had encroached upon his domain. One couldn’t help to think that perhaps he was as enamored with the scene as was I. The crickets spoke of the coming darkness, so I made my way back down the slope to home leaving the deer to his peace. My thoughts meandered back to the clear flowing waters. Tomorrow I would try once more to find myself wading the waters to reach the sanctuary, challenged but not diminished by what it took to reach that distant shore. The first step is always the hardest.
Likewise, when we decide to take our leap of faith and commit our lives to serving the Lord, the first step is the most difficult. Stepping from the safety of the shore into the unknown can be enough to cause us to reconsider our decision. We think it is all our doing, that we’ll have to make it on our own. What we often fail to realize is that once we begin our journey with Him, that is Him, God, that will be there to help make up the differences we cannot fathom. So, when we finally realize that we are not alone, we can make that first step.
The freezing water at first is like burning fire, but with time, we become numb to its pain. As we learn to trust in Him, we are able to carry on, pushing forward, becoming numb to our previous fears. The current is strong, and it takes every ounce of strength to take each new step, yet we are not deterred. In our weakness, we become strong in Him. The reward we seek is far greater than the obstacles that try to dissuade us from reaching that distant shore. The cold has lessened the pains; still, we continue on regardless of what others might say or think. Once we find ourselves committed, standing on the brink of the rushing waters, we still struggle to make the crossing. They never said it would be easy. Trial and tribulation buffet us like the coming storms before me this night. Below the surface, rocks make each step painful as our bare feet seek to guide our way. Meanwhile, we are burdened down by the past life; financially and emotionally. The anchor of our self-inflicted burdens become unwanted drag against the current. Breaking free is in some ways as difficult as dying. In essence, we must die to our formers selves so that we may be made anew in Christ. As Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We tend to try to bring the past with us, and the problems therein. With persistence, we push on. One by one, we set our burdens free, lightening our load. As we learn to walk in our faith, those restraints that kept us shackled to the past are broken away, and we are set free.
With each step, we find a rhythm to the river’s bottom, and soon, we are beginning to find the nearing distant shore. We know we are on the right path for the current is against us, like those trials through which we persevere, they build our character, and with each one, we become stronger in our faith. Once we make landfall, we wearily climb up out of the river, careful not to slip and fall back in. Looking down from above, we can see from whence we came. There is peace in knowing that you have made it through the storm. There is peace in knowing that with Him, all things are possible, and because of Him, we have that distant shore for which we may strive.
The choice is ours.
Step into the water and begin your journey.
You’ll not turn back, for if it is His will, then it shall be done.
Thanks be to God.