The air was thick with the sweet cool decay of fire bright leaves dangled and fallen on the mushy forest floor. As the path snaked narrowly through a thicket of depleted underbrush, I couldn’t help but stop and turn towards the amber yellow sun as it gifted a warmth that felt like a baby blanket. The afternoon was ours to savor. In silence and solitude, taking a nap or riding a bike, whatever we did or didn’t do, the purpose was to spend time in the presence of God.
So after taking to the trees that ran along the Fox River, my deer path at best blended into a well worn low gravel trail that paralleled the water. Sunny, mid fifties, dry with a slight breeze. It doesn’t get much better than that on a fall day.
It was towards the end of our free time, this was a spiritual retreat after all. But there appeared on the left side of the road a weathered deep grain wooden bench that stood guard not more than 5 feet from the water’s edge. It held out it’s hands like a child, and said, “Just 5 minutes”. So I heeded its call.
Looking down on the small smooth sandy riverbank, the water was so calm that as it lapped on shore it never extended more than two inches. Here was this massive force of nature, carrying millions of gallons of water south with surgical precision. But it looked like nothing was happening.
The presence of God feels like that at times. A massive life force that we’ve heard of and seen for ourselves, that nevertheless seems to be barely moving. With elections going one way for some and another way for others, mass shootings that somehow we’ve gotten used to seeing, and our own fullness of life that many times lacks purpose. Why does the river of eternal life, this geyser of greatest goodness, our friend and Savior, Jesus, move so imperceptibly?
At first glance nothing seemed to be going on, but then just below the surface a wilted leaf passed by at a deliberate pace. Then a twig. Then a fish. Then the river bottom itself swayed like a Hawaiian hula dancer. The river was moving, and it was shifting everything in and around it. I just needed that bench to show me.
Jesus has provided each of us a well-worn bench to sit and watch him at work. We call it the Holiday Season. A resting place where we enjoy good food, tell stories, and relax in the company of those we love. And through that experience we see something happen. We behold the transformative love of God actually move.
At the end of the seventeenth Psalm it reads, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the face of God. It is big, full of contours and smooth crisp edges, and it turns to you this Holiday Season so that you might feel whole and at peace. Like that tranquil majestic river Jesus is moving in the ways that we need. All we have to do is sit, watch, and trust.