The world-encompassing rollercoaster ride called 2020 has not been optional for any of us.
There have been enough twists, turns, and terrors this year to satisfy the most crazed adrenaline addict and to unsettle most everyone else. No line-up for tickets for this ride! But here we are, with the threat of chaos following the US election looming on the horizon. It’s enough to drive a man to drink – but perhaps more wisely – to pray.
I sailed once on a 20foot Jollyboat during a fierce storm and the exhilaration of being flat out on the trapeze and experiencing the power of the wind in the sails is a long remembered thrill. Although I couldn’t even swim, my confidence in the captain of the boat quelled whatever fears I might have had – all I had to do was listen to his commands. When the waves are blowing wildly and threatening to swamp your small vessel it’s good to have an anchor, but even better to listen to the captain and experience the joy of riding the storm – knowing He won’t let you sink.
Decades ago, when I was a teen, I read a novel, Green Dolphin Country, by Elizabeth Goudge, that affected the course of my life. The book (based on true events) set in both the Channel Islands and later, New Zealand, during the late 1800s, recounts the story of two sisters who loved the same man and the events that followed his mixing up their names in a written marriage proposal. The wrong woman gladly undertook the dangerous 12,000-mile sailing-ship journey to join him in the wilds of New Zealand. (Spoiler alert – he cannot send her back and spends the rest of his life learning to love her.)
Although I could not grasp the depth of it, one scene etched itself on my heart. In the heat of one of the Maori uprisings, Samuel, a much-loved missionary/pastor, was taken captive and forced to climb a cliff from which his captors intended to throw him. Samuel had enough favor with some of the Maoris that they granted him a last wish – that he not be thrown, that he be allowed to go freely to his death. Not just freely, but gladly as he runs from the cliff like a bride going to meet her lover.
There was much more in the book that impacted me, but something about that line, that image lingered in the back of my mind. It was years later, when I myself encountered Jesus, the object of Samuel’s affection, that I was able to make sense of his behavior.
Someone dear to me once accused me of being careless – where I had seen myself as carefree, (surely a good attribute). My natural optimism, now married to faith in an all-powerful, loving God often runs athwart the prevailing sentiment of despair and gloom. There is so little that any of us can control in most situations that surely faith in a sovereign God is not foolish but wise. I have known Him now – for more decades than I like to admit to – and He has never failed or forsaken me. In truth, the upside of aging is knowing Him better. Which brings me to this poem.
Enough with guilt - leave off the constant sorrow of the world. This cannot be submerged - it bubbles to the surface persistent as a spring. The evenings’ news is solemn stuff indeed, and all man's woes. But the giddy trill of brook on stone cannot be stilled while all creation fiddles. Collapse and contagion are real, not to mention global warming. But the melody rings louder yet and cannot be ignored. And so I dance. Gravity demands, "You must descend." I shall plunge from the cliff – laughing and jubilant - into the welcoming arms of my lover.