4/29/2008 21:16

Swimming With the Flow

Imagine a river in spate. The water level is high, the current is fast. You can hear the flowing water as it rushes down.

You are in the river. You are floating in the current; the water is too deep for you to stand up and the current is too strong to stand in even if you could touch the bottom. You are being carried downstream. The trees on the banks are slipping by as you are washed away.

What do you do?

In this rushing river, the safest option is probably to swim toward the shore, especially if there is a quiet backwater there where you won't be dragged downstream by the current, or if there is shallower water where you can stand. Even if the flood current is rushing right up to the banks, there might be a chance to grab a branch or an exposed root and pull yourself out of the water onto the ground. The objective of the safe option is to escape the river.

"Swimming against the flow" is proverbial for the quixotic attempt to fight the current. You don't have the speed of the river, you don't have the weight to balance the mass of water, you don't have the endurance of gravity. You can try to swim upstream, but at the best you may be swept downstream a little less swiftly. Most likely, you will exhaust yourself with nothing to show for it.

Perhaps you can accept your situation and enjoy the ride. Face downstream and let the river carry you until it is ready to drop you off, perhaps miles away, perhaps until the river flows at last into a lake or ocean. If you know the river well enough, if you know the commitment you are likely to be making, if you are confident you will not be riding over a dam, there is much to be said for enjoying the ride.

Or there is the fourth option. You can swim downstream, with the flow. You can add your own strength and speed to the power of the flowing river.

I can't think of anything much scarier than swimming with the flow of a river in flood.

If the actual reality you find yourself in is an actual river, I strongly advise taking the safe option and getting out of the water.

But there is a reality for which the river is an allegory: If the river's flow is the Spirit of God, then the call of God may be that you should swim with the flow. If the river's current is the Love of God, then the command of God may be to add your strength and effort to the power of that river and swim with the flow.

Even in the allegory, I can't think of anything that is much scarier than swimming downstream in the flood of God's power. I'd much rather sit on the bank, out of the river, and watch the power go by. I'd rather be like Moses on the mountain, to sit in a protected spot on solid ground and watch God go away from me, than to be like Jesus and live in the middle of the stream every day of my life.

It is good news to hear that God understands. It is good news to learn that Moses and Elijah and Simon all felt much the same. Yet the call is still there, audible above the rushing waters, to jump back into the river and swim with the flow.