Henri Nouwen was fond of a story he often told in locations around the world. The story is about a River. It goes like this. “The little river said, “I can become a big river.” It worked hard, but there was a big rock. The river said, “I’m going to get around this rock.” The little river pushed and pushed, and since it had a lot of strength, it got itself around the rock. Soon the river faced a big wall, and the river kept pushing this wall. Eventually, the river made a canyon and carved a way through. The growing river said, “I can do it. I can push it. I am not going to let down for anything.” Then there was an enormous forest. The river said, “I’ll go ahead anyway and just force these trees down.” And the river did. The river, now powerful, stood on the edge of an enormous desert with the sun beating down. The river said, “I’m going to go through this desert.” But the hot sand soon began to soak up the whole river. The river said, “Oh, no. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get myself through this desert.” But the river soon had drained into the sand until it was only a small mud pool. Then the river heard a voice from above: “Just surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.” The river said, “Here I am.” The sun then lifted up the river and made the river into a huge cloud. He carried the river right over the desert and let the cloud rain down and make the fields far away fruitful and rich.”
As Nouwen notes, likely from personal experience, “There is a moment in our lives when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves. But there is the voice that comes to us, “Let go. Surrender. In this parched land, I will make you fruitful. Yes, trust me. Give yourself to me.”
Give yourself to me.
These are the invitations of discipleship. When things are clicking along with ordered precision, and everything seems to be going our way, we aren’t as apt to stop and listen, much less to answer God’s call. We are prone to be carried along in a tidal wave of activity; to “go with the flow.” Sometimes it takes disruption, and even defeat, to bring us to a point of letting go and surrender. Sometimes we have to fish all night and come home empty-handed in order to discover that the One who calls us is the One who will provide.
So what and where is your current desert? What is keeping you, or your congregation, from saying a genuine “yes,” to Jesus’ invitation? What is preventing you from trusting God’s voice? In love, Christ is waiting while he works. As my spiritual director said to me just last year, “Jon, are you trying to take Jesus with you where you want to go, or are you letting Jesus take you with him where he wants you to be?” These are questions to introduce into our next leadership gatherings. I’d love to hear what you discover in the process. I can’t wait to see where God will take us as we give ourselves to him.
Jon (the Methodist)
If you would like to view past editions of How Sweet the Sound, follow this link: https://sounddistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/