I have a little river that flows right by my back deck at my house. Even with my baseball days long gone, I could still easily sit in my chair and throw a baseball and hit the river. It is that close. I like having that little river. In fact, most days I am not even sure it is a river. Much of the time, it is hardly more than a creek.
I am not even sure why I call it “my” little river. I don’t own any deed to the river. I don’t even think it is on my property. More than likely, it marks the boundary of what is “mine.” Even to use possessive language about land strikes me as a bit odd. Of course, I know about laws, property rights, deeds, etc. And of course, I really don’t want someone coming into ”my house” in the middle of the night to claim some space. I understand why I have locks on my doors.
And yet, a big part of me thinks all the property---all the land, creeks, rivers, mountains and everything else---is really God’s. For me to be part of nature is a gift. It is a good gift. I have been lucky to live in this land of plenty. The natural world that surrounds me is gracious. It is fertile; there is sufficient water. The trees surrounding my place are wonderfully luxurious in many different ways. I have been blessed.
And there is that little river---my little river. It flows on and on. It is symbolic in many ways, I have concluded. It is a teacher. I can be its student. If I open myself to its teaching, I can learn a great deal. In fact, I believe it is a source of wisdom for the one willing to become wise. I want to be open to its wisdom.
One of the things I am convinced is true about my little river is that it has seasons. Of course, you might say. It goes through spring and summer, fall and winter just like anything else in nature in my part of the world. That is true, but it is not what I mean my seasons. Let me elaborate.
By the season of my little river, I mean the surging and flagging of the river flow. My little river is quite sensitive to what is going on. Normally, it is just my little river. It flows rather steadily---without much ado. It is easy to overlook in these normal times. There is movement, but little drama. There is action, but little reaction is elicited. In these normal times, I have to be aware and alert if I want to learn anything from my little river.
It can teach me much about how to deal with normal times. It is quietly effective as a river---moving water effortlessly along. That teaches me how to be effective in my own normal times. After all, most of my time is normal. Most of my time is not dramatic. I want to continue to learn how to be steady, effective and productive in my own routine times. That would be a great accomplishment.
That goes for my own spiritual life, too. Most of my spiritual life is pretty normal---little drama or fanfare. I want that to be solid and effective. I want my own spiritual journey to be as steady as the flow of my little river.
Then there are the times when heavy rains come. Heavy rains alter the normalcy of my little river. My little river is quickly sensitive to environmental changes. When heavy rains come, my little river turns into a tiger! My little river becomes a pretty big, almost raging river. The noise level elevates significantly. It begins to sound like I am at the ocean. There is rushing water and crashing sounds like waves hitting a wall. That little river becomes robust and rambunctious. To be in that river would be like climbing on a bucking bronco!
There are also seasons of my spirit. There have been a few times when the fresh winds of the Spirit have blown so strongly, that I was deeply moved. These are the times that I feel mighty and capable of really big things. In these seasons, I want to imitate my little river. I want to be responsive and become spiritually effective. I want to make things happen---to make a difference.
And then there are the times when it gets dry and the dry season may become extended. During these seasons my little river shrivels. Its movement slows drastically. It still flows, but it conserves energy---seemingly settling in order to sustain itself through dry periods. It has less to give, but is nevertheless an impressive teacher. My little river knows how to make it through dry, thin times. It will survive and thrive.
What a great template for soul work. Anyone who has been at soul work for a while knows there will be those dry times. We know that even though we go through the motions of spiritual discipline, there may be little or no movement of the Spirit. My little river teaches me to be patient and to stay with it. My little river never gets mad and quits flowing. “Stay within yourself,” I can hear it tell me during these times.
I value having such a wonderful teacher within a baseball throw. It is mine. I do not pay for the education and formation. Like most things in God’s nature, it is gift. It is a form of grace given liberally to me---and anyone else who wants to be open and see.