The Flow of the River
My daughter loves the zoo.
Emma is two years old, and just like any other two year old in the history of the world, she is totally enamored with animals. The cow going “moo” and the duck going “quack” are regular utterances in our home. And the zoo is this magical place where Emma gets to say hi to all her furry friends.
Last week, it was nonstop bugging both my wife and I to take her to the zoo. At least 3x an hour, we heard something about going to the zoo. Literally, we were in the drive thru of McDonald’s, and as I pulled away with our food, Emma calls from the back seat, “Okay dad, let’s go eat our food at the zoo!”
Of course, she doesn’t grasp the idea that we can’t go to the zoo all the time. Sometimes it’s too cold. Sometimes the weather is rainy. Sometimes we have to go to the grocery store. (I’d say it’s cost prohibitive to go, but my wife bought us a zoo pass knowing we’d get good use out of it.)
But no matter. Emma only knows the joy she gets from the zoo and not all the other things we do in life that don’t include going to the zoo. To her, life simply happens… and she goes to the zoo.
It’s funny how that works. This child… this beautiful little girl… is not at all attuned to the hustle and bustle of everything that goes around her. She knows my wife and I are going to lovingly take care of her no matter what, and regardless of anything that happens…
The world keeps spinning.
The river keeps flowing.
The thing about life is that we’re all really just along for the ride. We tend to make it this grand thing and rah-rah whatever we champion, and I’ll be the first to raise my hand to say how bad I am about this. I get so into my head so often that I forget that life is just this ever flowing river.
Think about all the things we’ve already missed. (Did Michelangelo ask my permission to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?) Think about all the things we will miss. And think about all the things that you’re missing out on right now as you read this post.
The river flows on.
The river brings with it things that we rarely ever expect, delights and horrors alike. From the seemingly profound to the seemingly mundane, we experience life mostly as it comes, and our range of action is so severely limited by our space/time capacity. I’ll never get to experience what it was like to be around Jesus or the Buddha; I was born in the “wrong” time period for that.
The thing about the river is that things constantly pass and fade away. That precise feeling of happiness the first time I met little Emma when she was born is a distant memory, replaced with other similar feelings of happiness I experience when I see her smiling face every day. The feeling of surprise and grief when I received that phone call in that Family Video of my dad telling me my sister had passed away… also now a distant memory.
The river flows on.
And one day, it will all come to an end, perhaps sooner than later. It may be that I get in a terrible car accident the next time I step foot in a car. Or maybe I’ll live to be an old man, well into my nineties just as my own grandmother lives today. The predictability can only go so far. Statistically speaking, I have many years ahead of me, but healthy eating and exercise isn’t going to stop a drunk driver.
The river flows on.
So, friend, how will you choose to live? This isn’t an encouragement to live your life as if nothing matters. I know I experience more joy from the work of my hands than idly sitting around. But sometimes… it’s not a bad reminder to consider how futile it all is. It’s not as if we carry our accomplishments into the next life, whatever that next life is.
From dust we were born.
From dust we shall return.
For me, I pray that I can develop that childlike joy that Emma exudes on a daily basis. I pray to remember that the lilies of the field are clothed in finer robes than kings. And I will continue to pray that I can escape the shackles that is my own self importance. For at the end of this life…
The river will continue to flow.