We are all just swimming upstream. The moment the wind calms and the food is plentiful and the credit cards are paid off, gusts once again sweep you off your feet. They swell and pull at you and whistle uncomfortably in your ears. Kids grow louder. Your temper grows quicker. The laundry piles and bills and coping skills get all worn and tattered by all that beating. Life passes by in a streak of runny watercolor because your vision is full of rushing tide and debris. Some folks can keep up, with their heads to the sky and their heart full of prayer. You roll your eyes at those people. It’s all you can do to just keep looking forward, wiping the water from your tired, red, tear-stained face. Funny thing is, you didn’t even realize you were paddling so hard until you look down and see the white caps of the rapids. Oh, for a moment of peace. For the winds to calm. Just a tiny second for your arms to rest.
I think now I’m supposed to talk about trusting in God’s everlasting arms. To let Him do the fighting and you just roll back in a starfish float like my daughter’s swim lesson and allow all your earthly burdens to melt away. That’s about the time I stop reading, because I’ve got things piling up and I just can’t hear any more about letting go. I’m not into vague fuzzy lessons on how we are all masters of nothing and should quit fighting. If I let go, I’ll drown. I don’t know about you people, but I just don’t have the luxury of letting go.
So I build up endurance and keep on swimming. I’m getting pretty good at setting my sights on the distance and finding friends to help make the journey palatable. I’m growing strong, and confident, and feel I have this life thing figured out. I thank God for strong arms and a fighter’s spirit and think I’m doing my duty.
But then the storm comes. Not the everyday storm that makes my lungs sting and my thighs ache from paddling so hard, but the black storm that hits me in the chest until I cry out of fear and pulls me into a hole and makes me think this is so unfair. I’ve worked so hard. I’ve been fighting the current. I thought I got this, but now I can’t see or breathe and I’m drowning.
It is then you begin the slow descent to the bottom. It’s a moment when time stands still, and you have the most peaceful conversation with your creator. You aren’t pushing. You aren’t moving. You aren’t wiping water from your eyes or trying to take in side breaths. You are simply lying there on the bottom of the river, watching all that rushing water above. The ironic thing is that fear is surprisingly absent and your heart is strangely full. And it hits you. God truly is more powerful than the river. His hands calm the winds and open your eyes and move the boulders, but all this time you were resisting. He puts you in a place to allow you to see this abounding truth, even when you were fighting with your fists and elbows and words against it. I will show you my love even when you don’t want to see it. Even if it takes you to the brink of death.
When you rise up again, gasping for air, you are astounded by the beauty you see. Your tears are clear, for through them you can see brilliance. The winds blow, but they don’t suck you down. There is a purpose to this struggle. And just like that, you find yourself letting go. You didn’t read it in some devotional or have it handed to you by a priest or hear it in some sappy Christian song. You let go because you were there at the bottom of the water, and rose up again. Because you felt such an overwhelming peace.
Let the gusts come. No bother. You can take it.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”