I went tubing one time along the Tangipahoa River with a friend from the Louisiana Department of Tourism and Recreation. His assignment was to take pictures as we floated by the beauties of nature. At the beginning of our expedition, he realized that I was a little nervous about being in such a small tube and the prospects of turbulence in the river. “You will enjoy it,” he assures me. “Just relax and let the river take you.” “That’s what I’m afraid of,” I laughed half-heartedly.
“Let the river take you.” These words lodged in the back of mind as an analogy of life itself. I can see the wisdom of relaxing and letting life happen as it will, and does—despite our efforts to alter its course. Life keeps moving and changing whether we are willing to go along with the ride or not. We can try to control, possess, manipulate, yell and scream, but the river keep flowing right along. Greek Philosopher Epictetus said, “We never step into the same river twice.” Change is inevitable. Unhappiness results when we fail to deal constructively deal with what is, rather than what ought to be.
For example, we can resent getting older, losing our energy, finding more wrinkles, experiencing more and more losses; but the facts still remain. We can butt our heads against reality, but reality holds. Many times I’d like to change reality, especially when it comes to the loss of loved ones. But instead of asking “Why did this happen?” I need to ask, “How can I deal with it?”
Easterners tell us that suffering is caused by “desire”, insisting that we find personal fulfillment “my way”, and when this doesn’t happen, we can become depressed or addicted to destructive habits. The egoic mind can rule our lives to the point that we can become enslaved to wanting what we want when we want it. The egoic mind can give us a lot of “shoulds” and “oughts”, and create for us a very stressful life if it doesn’t happen the way we want it.
In the Sermon on The Mount, Jesus asks, ”Which of you, by being anxious, can add one cubit to his life?” He goes on to say, “O Ye of little faith”(Matthew 6). Faith. Letting go. Yielding to the flow of life. Trusting God during all of the stages of life. It is changing what we can, but not resenting nor resisting inevitable change. I believe this is what Jesus was talking about. Let the river take you. Trust tomorrow.
By ourselves, we can become adrift in a huge sea of water without an anchor. But our trust in God helps us to see that we are not left with our own devices to survive. The Psalmist reassures us, “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul” (Ps.23).