I was recently on a silence and solitude retreat for a day and had the chance to walk through the forest preserve on the property. A small stream about 30 yards wide ran the perimeter of the preserve so I decided to follow the trail near it on one of my hikes.
After a little while I came upon a slight dip in the stream, which created a small waterfall. Understand, I do mean small because I don’t think any whitewater rafters are losing sleep trying to get to this location or anything. But it was a perfect place to stop and just reflect.
As I looked at the waterfall, I was trying to apply what I was seeing to how it might relate to our lives. I found myself getting caught up in thoughts of how our lives are so much like this stream. They seem to be going along fine and then things start to speed up. Sometimes we know the reasons, but other times life just starts to get a little frantic and we don’t seem to see why.
Then it hits us.
It’s the dip in the river, the edge of the waterfall, the unforeseen speed bump of life. Before you know it you are smack dab over the edge and in the middle of something that seems out of control. It could be a job loss, a marriage that crumbles, a fight about money with a coworker, or a major health illness.
Whatever it may be, you find yourself underwater fighting to surface again and sifting through the white bubbles left in its wake.
As I stood and watched, I noticed a piece of bark that had gone through the natural progression of what I just described and after it surfaced from the falls I watched it. It floated around getting tossed by rocks, fast moving water, even getting close to the bottom of the falls again, but eventually it made it’s way down the river and the smooth ride it enjoyed at the top of the falls returned again.
But soon the twigs and branches I saw in the water quickly turned to faces of people I knew and cared about. People who I know are bobbing around in a sea of white water desperately trying to find that smooth water again. As I was thinking about all this I have to be honest, it was kind of hard to process. I was really getting frustrated until I happened to look up in the trees near the shoreline.
What I saw was a very odd thing to be in a tree that stretched out over the water as much as it did. You see up in the very top of the tree I saw a cross. A small, burnt red, man-made cross. Now, I’m pretty sure the little nuns I saw at the Hermitage didn’t shimmy up the tree to put it there, but it was obvious someone intentionally put it up there.
And then it dawned on me.
I got so caught up in the middle of all the stuff going on in the water I forgot to look up. I completely lost sight of where the strength to get through the waterfalls of life comes from.
“I life up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
So in the middle of your battles don’t get so caught up in the white water around you that you forget to look up. God may have been waiting in the trees the whole time. J