The Healing River – July 31, 2013 – John Carlson
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-7
It is the nature of rivers to change things. Sometimes in a rush, usually over a long period of time.
Nik Wallenda: walked on a steel cable over the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago. I watched him on live TV. I was riveted to the screen, my hands clenched, as Nik grabbed his stabilizing bar and walked over the canyon, no safety harness, and no parachute. While the rest of the world was marveling at his steady walk 1,500 feet above the canyon river; I was wondering how many millions of years it took for that river to carve that great canyon. Scientists suggest somewhere between six and ten million years for the relatively small river to make the grand canyon.
Tonight I wonder about the Big Thompson? What was it like here 6 million years ago before the formations came which we know today. Water is a powerful force. And the power unleashed on this day in 1976 became unforgettable to those who lost so much, whose lives were changed so dramatically. Since then, we have grown to accept the changes brought with force and speed that day. The river changed the entire Big Thompson canyon. Rock formations, currents, width, depth, road bed, even locations of key points: Everything changed in a matter of hours. And the river changed us. And we return every year to honor the change, to remember the loss, to both grieve and celebrate in new ways. Grieving and celebration are very close cousins. The same event can be the source of profound hurt and great joy. It becomes the challenge of our own spiritual path to accept and allow this paradox. Being here today can excite tears and laughter in nearly the same breath.
So I propose today the The Big Thompson has become a healing river – symbolizing the sacred respect that comes with deep change.
The streams of life carve out new directions for our course all the time. Our journey is a life long process of change, pain, and healing — allowing the river of time to shape our way, shape our path, and shape our love. Healing is not forgetting. Healing is remembering. It is a way to celebrate life. Journeys are not static. They are fluid. As fluid as the churning waters below us. Our assignment in life is to honor change. Understand that life flows forward. Learning to appreciate the rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the deep still pools and the raging rapids. Life is a long, enjoyable, hard journey of change. Change is ever-present and inescapable — which is why it’s essential to live in the moment as much as possible. Every moment in time lasts for only a split second. Weather changes. Seasons change. Relationships change. Countries, borders, governments, leaders, laws, cultures, products, habits, customs, thoughts, bodies – everything you can think of changes. Some changes happen in the blink of an eye. Others take millenia. But everything changes.
Yet notice how often we make ourselves miserable because we resist change. What changes have you and I been resisting lately? And how would our experience of these changes be transformed by letting go of our resistance to them? What would it be like to accept change as a gift and go with the flow?
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: but it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.“
C. S. Lewis“
On our journey, we can maybe get to a place where we can give thanks for the hard events which have forced us to change. Loss is one of those events. Loss is not only inevitable, it is essential to move forward. My first traumatic loss was at the age of 15 when my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. He was an anchor and a rock in my life. As I worked along his side, he become an inspiration. When I lost him, I believed I had lost my rock. But over time, as I accepted the loss, I realized I was growing up in new ways. His inspiration lived inside me, in my memory of him. I was forced to no longer depend on his words or his direction. But his spirit shaped my own direction. The loss became the launching place for my own spirit to grow and move forward.
May this day be a day for us to remember the loss we endured 37 years ago. And may we also be in touch with the journey since then as we reflect on the changes which have graced our path over the years. Some memories fade. Some remain vivid as if from yesterday.
May the Big Thompson come alive in our hearts as the healing river that destiny had in store.
Prayer: Oh healing river, send down your waters. Shower us with your grace. Flood our dry spirits with springs from your eternal and healing pools. May our journey be strengthened by faith in your abiding love. Amen.
May the love of God be above you to overshadow you, beneath you to uphold you, before you to guide you, behind you to protect you, close beside you and within you to make you able for all things, and to reward your faithfulness with the joy and peace which the world cannot give — neither can it take away. Amen.