Sunday, March 6, 2016

The song of the stream

If it weren't for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. - Carl Perkins

After years of getting up before dawn in order to get to work, right now I have the leisure to stay in bed until a much more reasonable (to my thoughts, anyway) hour. One of the lovely parts is hearing the birds wake up in the morning. There is always one who starts early, half an hour or more before sunrise, and then others join in. It's like hearing their morning prayers or thanks for being alive for another day.

I've often wondered which I would choose if I had to choose going blind or going deaf. I remember practicing the piano with my eyes closed so that I could play without having the visual cues of either written music or where my fingers were on the keyboard. Even then, hearing seemed so important although I still depended on my eyesight for reading, getting my bearings, and finding my way around, whether it is my kitchen or the world.

Some of my favorite sounds are those made by water. In a quiet room, I can close my eyes and hear the gentle lap of wavelets on the beach, or the crash of larger waves on the rock breakwaters. There is the sound of a fish jumping or a sea bird calling. Then there is the small stream that gurgles and splashes across rocks and sand on its way from here to there. It's a soothing sound, a meditative sound that encourages the passerby to stop and listen to its song.

Sounds are complex. Unless the wind is extremely strong, it doesn't really have a lot of sound until it moves something like a wind chime or the leaves on a tree. Water moves smoothly unless there is something to disturb it, like rocks in its bed. The rocks provide resistance, and even if the water slowly polishes the rough edges, the rounded stones and pebbles add to the water's singing.

One of the metaphors for life is a that of a river moving down its course from its source to its mouth, from the place where it is born until it joins a greater life in a larger river, bay, gulf, or ocean. In its journey, it runs through flat places and rocky ones which seem to be what life is for human beings. There are easy times and rough ones, each marking part of the journey.

Water, being a fluid, moves over each obstacle without harm to itself but leaving a trace of its passing. It leaves ripples in the sand and wears away a minute segment of the rock. Humans, though, are marked by the experiences in life, including having scrapes and scars from those experiences. We can't get through life without at least a few of them, and sometimes a great many. Those experiences help to make us what we are, like a sculptor chisels away at rock to reveal an image s/he sees captured there and freeing it. 

As Christians, we sometimes see God's hand planting a rough patch of stones, a turbulent section, or a quiet stream bed. We visualize the stones and rough patches as part of life, but also we look to see God's guidance and support in the process.  We use the phrase, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," but tell that to someone fighting cancer or some other chronic disease. It may be a worthy statement, but it tells us we are on our own in fighting whatever crisis there is for us to work through. We may feel that way sometimes but God is still there, even when we don't realize it. The struggles we go through can strengthen our faith, and tune our song just as water wears away the rock and gives the stream its own voice.

What song would we sing if we were a stream or even a human travelling down through a life? Would it be a song of compliant and "Oh, woe is me"? Would we sing a song of hope or remembrance? How about a song of faith and trust in God? Maybe even a song of praise and thanksgiving that God is always with us? Even when going through rapids or rough waters, God is present.

Our song may change as we go through life. The song of the aged is very different from that of the child or young adult. If the song we sing points to God and trust in God's faithfulness, it will be a lovely one that will touch the hearts of those around us. It's our choice to sing or not, what to sing, and when, but God is always listening attentively.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, March 5, 2015.

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