In preparation for a retreat in which I am participating this weekend, I had to do a written exercise called “the River of Life.” Basically in this exercise you look back on your life and compare it to a river. You note where your river flowed strongly or where it almost dwindled down to a trickle, where it suddenly became a rapids or where some obstacle blocked its flow, and even where it took a turn. You note the key events that where happening at each stage of your river. As I reflected I noted many critical events- beginning a relationship with Christ, hearing a call to ministry, getting married, heading to Duke, dropping out of a graduate program at Vanderbilt and facing unemployment, undertaking my first pastorate, having our first child, discovering that I was a workaholic and a lousy husband/parent, moving to a very large church, “hitting the wall” and burning out, discovering my passion for mentoring clergy, saying good bye after 24 years at one place, and finally, learning to start all over again.
However, what I discovered in my reflection was that most of these events, in and of, themselves were not the key to my life’s journey- rather it was the people with whom I was involved during these events who really shaped my life into what it is today.
So, upon reflection, may I offer you two thoughts? First of all, in the words of Mister Rogers, in a crisis “look for the helpers.” In the more challenging events of my life, God always had someone there for me. So, if your river has become turbulent, look around to see who God has put there for you. Secondly, look around and ask God if there is someone who could use your presence, touch, listening ear, or experience in their life at this moment. In other words, look for the helpers and be the helper.
May your river flow freely and smoothly, but more importantly, may you never be alone nor let others be alone when the turbulence comes.