Down to the River
In my forty-five years of life, I don’t think I have ever encountered the concept of a river cresting. Growing up near the water, I was always aware of the change of tides and the impact that had on fishing and swimming. I knew about the erosion of shorelines by the Atlantic Ocean and the Long Island Sound. I was living in a tent at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in the summer of 1985 during Tropical Storm Bob, and later that year, I experienced the worst blackout of my life, going two weeks without power when I was a high school freshman in boarding school during Hurricane Gloria. In my first year working at La Lumiere School in Indiana, we had over four feet of snow that partially cancelled exams and stayed on the ground through March, and in my last year there, we cancelled school because wind chills reached -30 degrees Fahrenheit and it was unsafe to be outside for more than five minutes at a time. But the flooding caused by a cresting river is new to me.
Now I know. Now I know the damage that water can do as it rises over its natural barriers and destroys the man-made barriers on its way to vehicles and businesses and homes. Like all of us, I am amazed at the devastation it has caused to many of our local towns and rural areas, and my prayers are with those who have been directly impacted.
The Sunday after the flooding, in church, our pastor performed a baptism, blessing a young child with that water. That same water that rains down on our crops, that feeds our animals. The water God gave us to nourish us and bless us. I think the most popular song we sing in lower school chapel is “Down to the River.” In that song, we go down to the river “to pray” and to be “washed by the water,” and in words that mean more to me now, we “leave changed, never the same.” I know in this time that the river has come to us, and I hope through these trials that we are never the same.
I have been slowly working my way through Andy Crouch’s excellent book, Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing. In it, Crouch argues that true flourishing in life for the individual, and I thinkfor communities as well, can be found in finding a balance between authority and vulnerability. This past storm has certainly made me recognize our vulnerability; I am grateful that we have authority through our belief in Christ. Crouch says:
I have seen this here in our communities. Resilience despite suffering. Faith despite the rising waters. Love despite the pain. This is how we become strong: drawing closer to Christ in our weakness, and through being drawn closer to Christ, in turn drawing closer to one another. If we have any goal for our students at Harrells, it is for them to know their own vulnerabilities and walk through life with grace and humility, but also to be leaders who have authority through their faith and their confidence to let their voices rise up through them and crest in the fullness of kindness to others.