This is an excerpt from:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance.
One day I was riding my hand cycle on a bike trail. I stopped for a drink, and as I looked around I experienced a sense of peace and tranquility. I surveyed a location that could serve as the image for my place of center. Mentally re-creating these calm, serene surroundings might help me to visualize and express in more concrete terms what it means to become closer to God and to what He intended for me.
I imagined my mental “center” next to a path along a river. I could sit in the warm sunshine, or in the cool shade beneath a dense canopy of trees, solitary and isolated from the world around. Simply being in such placid surroundings prompted me to reflect, slow down, and become more aware.
The path disappeared into the woods. I could not see the approach from either direction. People appeared on the path, biking, skating, running, or walking. They traveled slowly or pushed their pace to extremes. Some seemed immersed in the beauty of this place; others focused on the path, their workout or their destination. Some traveled alone, some in pairs or groups; they were friendly, or indifferent, or even rude.
I realized that the path and the people were not about me. They were not mine to control; it was not my job to figure out why they were here or whether they were traveling the proper route. I was free to greet each person without judgment, secure in the knowledge that God had created the path and the people on it.
The river assumed different forms. Sometimes it churned with anger and danger, sweeping away anything in its path. At other times it babbled pleasantly and invited me to listen and become absorbed in its kindness and peace. Sometimes it dwindled to a slow, dried-up trickle, barely alive among rocks and mud.
I realized that the river is what it is. I could fear the torrent, worry about being carried off, wonder about flooding and destruction here or elsewhere. I could fret when the flow diminished, imagining drought and hunger, emptiness and despair, certain that it would never change. I could become mesmerized by the pleasant bubbling sounds on a lazy summer day and forget the danger and fear. None of this impacted the river.
I thought this changing state of the river had something important to teach me. I wrote some of my observations about the river:
The river is what it is and goes where it goes, as God is who he is and does what he does. Nothing I say or think or do changes it. God, like the river, just is.
I am paralyzed with fear that I might be engulfed, as though the fear will somehow protect me or change the river’s impact. I worry about its course after it passes, as though the worry will alter the river’s direction.
I lose hope when the flow diminishes, certain that there will never again be enough. I complain that it’s not fair, that the same river destroys some and nourishes others with no seeming regard for merit.
I cry to the heavens, as though on my advice God ought to change the nature and destination of the river He created. I’m certain that I know the very best state for the river. I question God’s wisdom and purpose when the river flows in such obviously “wrong” ways.
The river originates beyond my understanding and travels beyond my understanding. It is infinite, created by infinite God. I know that the river is what it is, and will go where it will go, and that it was created for and works for good.
The river just is, yet I struggle to accept it.
As I sit quietly in this place, I can gradually stop trying to change what I cannot change. As I allow myself to more fully BE in this place, I become more aware. I can watch and listen to the river in whatever state it exists, learning while asking nothing of it. I can trust that God who created it knows its proper path. Fear and worry diminish.
The river is what it is. I am detached from it, feeling no desire to alter it, aware that the river is not me, that I am not determined by its state or responsible for its course. The goals become awareness and acceptance rather than control and a self-centered need to know WHY.
I began to believe that this mental place of center could impact my perspective on nearly every important aspect of my life. I wondered about the character of the metaphor that made it speak so directly to my heart. I identified three aspects to this image, each representing a fundamental element of my identity.
I am fully functioning, “centered,” when I am in relationship: with others, with myself, with God. I am enriched to the extent that those relationships are open, honest, agenda-free encounters.
This is what I experience mentally in my place of center. Those traveling on the path represent the people that enter my life, my relationships with others. The place where I sit in solitude signifies my relationship with myself. The river concretely characterizes my relationship with infinite God.
This place by the river and the path speaks to my identity, who I AM as a creature created by God in his image. I am centered, whole and at peace when I am in relationship because that is who I am and how I was created.
Being centered means being here, right now, with another, with myself, with God. When I remind myself to “sit by the river” I’m remembering to claim the identity inherent in my nature as a person created in the image of God who values relationship.
This notion of center dominated my thinking and writing for a considerable time. The image spoke about every facet of my existence. I became immersed in its implications and applications. I experienced a wonderful sense of peace as I envisioned myself in this mystical place of center.
The metaphor offered a structure that brought order to a previously chaotic jumble as I wandered through a lifetime of thoughts and feelings. This process of reading, analyzing, and writing had an amazing settling effect. I felt free to trust that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I wasn’t concerned with destination or outcome. I didn’t consider how my ideas or activities might appear to. I felt clearly that my exploration was guided by God’s Spirit; that was sufficient.
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Copyright 2009 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com