When I was 16 some friends and I decided to go swimming in the Umpqua River. For those of you who are familiar with the Umpqua you will know that it’s currents and undertows are often unforgiving. At 16 your mind rarely thinks of these things. We decided to head to a swimming hole I had not been to before. There was a spot where you could float down what looked like fairly mild rapids. We decided to give it a try. As we floated along I was suddenly taken under. I was being held down by the amazing power and force of the river. As I looked up I could see that my body was just a few inches below the surface. I began to try to struggle to the top when wise words from my father surfaced from somewhere deep within. “Kara…If you are ever caught up in an undertow…don’t fight it. Just let the current carry you…Eventually it will release you.” I stilled my body and glanced upward. The sky looked so beautiful distorted by the rushing water. A peace came over me as I waited for my release…A release I had tremendous faith would come…and sure enough…it did. As I came up for air I was never so grateful for that sweet breath of life. I think of this experience often. I have continued to learn from it…and the river itself…in so many ways.
Right at the entrance of the road that takes you to our home there are huge boulders that stand in the middle of the the the rivers rushing water. Years and years of wear from the current has carved into and worn them down creating awkward but magnificent shapes. There is no denying just how powerful the force of the flow can be. As I thought about the kind of power the rivers current had on these boulders and the very real power it had once had on me, a song washed over me. My mind grabbed a hold of the very first line from this song and wouldn’t let go…”When peace like a river, attendeth my way.” Often we think of the peace of the river as the tranquil happenings on the surface of the water…but the peace that shapes our lives…the one that will attendeth our way…is happening in its deep dark depths. It’s the kind of peace that can only be felt when there is complete surrender to it’s relentless flow. Its the kind of peace that flows from faith. Christ may hold us just inches from the surface of a solution to allow us to see that this kind of faith in Him…this peace and understanding…is required to release us from our struggles. It’s the kind of peace that lets us feel and except the full force of life…The force that beats against our stubborn exteriors and carves away the idea that we are in control. “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
The other day one of my dearest friends shared a quote. “I’m beginning to think peace is something we made up to keep us from being satisfied with all this luscious chaos.” Although I am a true believer that our God is a God of peace and not of chaos I was taken back by the unintentional reminder that although God pours peace into our lives he does allow a good amount of “chaos” to flow through it as well. Like the current to the stone it shapes our soul into something that may appear awkward but is magnificent in the eyes of our Lord. We get discouraged when life and its “chaos” wears on us but that is exactly what life is meant to do. It wears us down and shapes us into who Christ intended us to be. I realize that being satisfied with life’s seemingly continues stream of “luscious chaos” is far easier said then done…It takes practice…and again…sweet surrender. We must learn to transform our thinking…our acceptance of it all…as it (forcefully at times) transforms our very way of living.
As I sat and watched my children play I looked down at my favorite pair of converse sneakers. They are both worn in…and yes…according to some…worn out…Kinda like me. It was then that I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of the simple “chaos”, the unforgiving undertows, and exhausting life shaping events that had occurred over the last several weeks. Peace washed over me and filled every Christ carved crevice of my soul. Shamed by my ungrateful heart I started to pray….Over those stinky old sneakers I prayed…Lord…Forgive me for not daily feeling the joy that comes in walking in a life that has been worn in by you. Continue to mold and shape my soul with your river of peace. Wash the debris of the world from my eyes so that I can always see your truth. Lord…Help me to remember that when I find myself caught in an undertow…to simply surrender…look upward as you carry me through…and wait for my release.