I used to rest on the southern bank of this river. Back then, when it was all I had ever known, I thought it was a good place to be. I could see the emerald forest on each bank; the water shimmering in the sun, the wildlife coming to its edges to drink.
On the surface I was coarse and shrouded in filth—my edges sharp. And I liked that.
It’s strange, but I don’t recall exactly how I ended up in the water. It was more like the river swelled and covered me. Suddenly, an eon of accumulated dirt was washed away…pushed as far to the east as the current could carry it. And even though everything had changed—and I had no idea what was going to happen to me—I liked it so much more than resting on the bank.
For the first time, I felt alive. When the swollen river waters rushed over me, it stirred me; caressed me; smoothed my sharpest points. After a while, I barely resembled my old self. The water made me something new…something different. I felt safe, and like I was where I was always meant to be.
Eventually the swollen banks receded some, and the water calmed and cooled. Even though the river was always surrounding me, it did not pursue me like it had in those first days, or so it seemed to me. I came to rest in the shallow shoreline, a mere measure from the bank that once held me. I thought then that it was the best of both worlds. I could see the trees though the calmer waters; I could almost touch the wildlife the skirted the edges. And some part of me liked that—being able to glimpse at my old life.
However, the longer I remained there—in that shallow water, in the absence of the current—I settled my weight into the mud…seemingly content.
But then another change came.
It happened so slowly that I didn’t notice it for a long time. A spot here and there, mostly on the side facing away from the water’s flow. But before I knew it, my somewhat smooth surface was covered. Covered with the most uncomfortable green algae. It permeated every pore, hid in every crevice. I felt so ugly, so ashamed.
The worst part was being so helpless, like this slimy curse was devouring me. Occasionally, a small sucker fish would come along and attempt to remove the hideous green film from me, but the more mature fish stayed in the depths of the river, where it was safe. They would clear a spot here…a spot there, but never enough of it to make me feel clean again. I yearned for the cure from my stagnant plague. I begged for it.
And slowly, the water began to warm again.
I heard my cure coming before I felt it. The roar of the waters echoing off the towering limestone walls filled me with fear. For a moment, I wished that I could just stay put; tethered to the shallow river bed in my murky green prison. And I hated that.
But the river’s will does not heed to the whim of one of its frightened limestones, for it cuts its own path, and bows to nothing. The raging flood waters pummeled me; the uprooted trees and debris loosened and scraped me from the river bed. With a multitude of other fragments of creation, I was swept downstream in the river’s wrath.
I was thrust against a boulder, dashed across a log. I felt a pointed corner break clean off when I was dragged along a gravel bar. A fleck of green left behind here, a fleck there—a tiny work in progress. It was such a joyful pain to endure. I hated the hurt, but embraced the cure.
It seemed like an eternity the river carried me, over miles…even years. I felt it sheer strength when it was at its most fierce. But now that the waters have calmed, and it has gently rested me in its depths—where the living water smoothes me a little more every day in its hands—I feel its sovereign grace.
And I love that.