The grands came out to spend the day this weekend. Inevitably we found water to play in, even if it’s really too cold to be playing in water. Of course there were many admonitions about ‘don’t get your feet wet’ but actually they thought they would like to take their shoes off and really get into this! We obliged, figuring these city kids may as well find out about the effect of changing seasons on water temperatures. Determined to love it despite our caution, they did!
We made our way to the stream where they’d played earlier in the summer and began building dams and sailing ‘boats’ of sticks and generally making up for lost time away from water! And I was reminded of my own childhood near a stream. I didn’t build dams. For me the challenge was to see the water flow better. I loved to clear leaves from the stream that ran through the little woods in back of our house…
Life is like a stream. It can get clogged with non-essentials that impede the flow of life as it was intended for us. I’ve been enjoying Wendell Berry’s book, Jayber Crow* this month with some other blog readers at Living our Days. In it Berry explores the idea of calling from the perspective of a man who has lived out his days in a way he hadn’t at first intended. He had thought he should make something more of himself than his mere humble beginnings suggested. And he set out to become a preacher. When that option fails him, he ends up following the river back to his humble beginnings and taking up quite naturally the role of small town barber. The imagery of the river figures largely in his story and so it seemed fitting to return to a post I wrote a few years back as I was muddling through change and trying to sort out my own purpose in life. This seems to a perpetual issue for me, so it was instructive and encouraging at this bend in the stream of my life too. I trust it will be for you as well:
I’ve been thinking lately of my life as an obstructed streamlet. As a kid our house adjoined a small woods through which a stream trickled carrying run-off from the surrounding farmland to the small lake where we skated in the winter and might catch a fish or two in the summer. Every year leaves would fall and rot and clog the flow of water to the lake. I appointed myself the task of dragging the leaves and muck away so the water could run freely. In company with my dogs and a stick it was a happy pastime.
Now, at this stage in my life, this lull between stages actually, I am taking stock of the baggage I’ve hauled around for all these years, both literally and figuratively. I’m not only cleaning out drawers and whole rooms for better utility and greater beauty but I’m looking at long-held habits– ways of thinking, acting and reacting. Habitual burdens that make life heavy and clog my streams. And I am thinking the time is now, if ever they are to be jettisoned—these fears I haven’t challenged and the pride that fuels them. These endless reasons why this or that is not feasible and really not a good idea after all… I long to be done with them.
What am I waiting for? Why do we cling to our baggage instead of checking it through to never-never-land! What would it take to drag all this muck out of the stream so it can run freely.
If I wait till I have ‘ME’ all figured out
my fears, doubts and foibles
my purpose in life clearly charted and understood….
All questions answered
All uncertainties clarified.
When then will I begin…
to try my hand at the things I am drawn to
to serve in love according to my design
a living sacrifice
imperfect, weak, and ineffectual in glaring ways,
BUT chosen, appointed, useful, and declared ‘just right’
because of Jesus—who died on my behalf
—who lives to intercede for me (and you)
Who infuses my mind with truth,
my heart with desire,
my hands with strength,
that is equal to His purposes for my life.
Not equal to my ideals perhaps,
nor to my envies
nor to my every whim or compulsion
But equal to His calling and intents—
His image overlaid on my uniquely created personhood.
He is prepared to take me ‘as is’,
for His own glory.
What am I waiting for?
A scene from my childhood comes back to me now. I have long had this compulsion to be more dedicated, more holy, more ‘something-I-don’t-seem-to-be’, more pleasing… In this instance I recall I had plunked down with my journal in a quiet place in the wood, not far from that streamlet I had cleared, and I was considering what it would mean to be a ‘bondservant’. Marked for life, by one’s own choice, as the slave of a cherished Master. Paul called himself ‘a bondservant of Christ’. I wanted to be that too. My reasons may have been more a prideful compulsion to please, than a pure love of my Master. I remember being sober and fearful to trust Him with my life. But I wanted to trust. Little knowing what this would entail in the years still ahead of my young-teen self, I wrote out my commitment in words that day, pledging to be a bondservant of Christ.
And here I am, all these years later, still clearing leaves from streams, still sensing His Spirit beckoning me to trust Him to complete the good work He has started–to make of me all He has designed for me to be. But I find it is He who has done the serving. He who has been committed to me through the thick and the thin of my professed love. And I know it will be His doing if living water is to flow through my streamlet or burdensome baggage yet be jettisoned from my life. It is good to be bonded to such a Master!
With living words He woos me to more effectual service:
“Walk by my Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh… Whatever you do, do it as unto me. Abide in me. Walk in my yoke. It’s easy. It’s light….”
He beckons me to lay aside every weight to which sin clings so closely– these weights of expectation. These ‘should’s. These demands for things to be other than they are. Unbelief and discontent with His provision cling closely to these weights. He calls me to lay them aside and run with endurance the race marked out for ME. (Heb.12:1) Not another’s race, but mine.
To trust God to complete the work he’s begun in us, this is the ‘obedience of faith’.(Rom.16:26) To live in confident hope of a yet-to-be-revealed righteousness, this is our salvation (Gal.5:5). And for our every need, our every weakness, our every propensity for sin Jesus’ blood intercedes and grants us free access to God’s mercy and His grace. (Heb.4:14ff) What more do we need?
What pleases God? Jesus does. He in me and I in Him, this is enough. (Jn.15:4) Here may I rest my case, beside the quiet streams…
- Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
- Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
- Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
- While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
—Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778
‘…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.’ (Hebrews 12:1,2 NLT)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30 KJV)
“… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phl 1:6 NKJV)
*P.S. If Jayber Crow’s story interests you drop by my alternate blog, Dawn’s Quotes and Notes, https://dictationbydawn.wordpress.com/ for some more quotes and thoughts, posted Thursdays till the book is done! or come by Michele Morin’s blog at Living our Days for more discussion!
UPCYCLED FROM “CLEARING STREAMS”, OCT.4, 2013