March 15: I will make … rivers in the desert
The lucid image of this week’s theme immediately speaks to me of renewal.
Surely my experience of living by the St. Joseph River prompts my interpretation of this line. This river is repeatedly a source of renewal for my work-weary soul. In the summer, my husband and I float our canoe downriver to a sand bar that is submerged about a foot below the surface. There we plant old lawn chairs and sit in water that tickles our seats; we wade with minnows, cast fishing lines into the deeper pools, and let the sun and water restore us. We are not by the river or on the river. We are in the river, physically submerged in a different kind of rhythm – a rhythm that dives and flows in constant motion, but moves not in a harried press toward production. It’s a rhythm that restores in us the sheer delight of living.
When I taught high school literature, rivers often showed up in our texts as symbols of renewal. In particular, I was impressed by the novella Siddhartha, where the title character experiences both despair and rebirth on the banks of a river. My high school students often expressed frustration that Siddhartha’s initial rebirth didn’t “stick” – that it was followed by an attack of life-loathing anguish. Because I was teaching in a Christian school, I had a ready comparison: “Haven’t you ever been inspired by a summer church camp or convention only to return to the routine of school and find you’ve lost that spiritual high?” The character, they saw, necessarily cycles through depletion and renewal, holding on and letting go, because it’s the rhythm of the spiritual journey.
In these late-winter days, I feel the ache of spring, but alas, my summer river-sits are yet a long way off. Still, I want to be attentive to other “rivers” in this Lenten season – the colorful birdsong in the morning; the gentle drift of a late-winter snow; the dive of a hawk into a fallow field. Here on the bank of spring, may we praise the Creator for these tangible promises of renewal.