We walked upstream, splashing over 100 rocks with every step. I watched as we stirred the clear water, causing clouds of dirt to rise to the surface. As we continued in the creek, stopping at a deeper hole for a dunk under water and dodging cow patty after cow patty, I had a place in mind that I wanted to go. I would ask them occasionally, “Are we going or stopping?” and each time they’d reply, “Keep going.”
After we passed the bend in the creek and kept left at the fork, I knew we were nearing the memory I envisioned. I remembered the way awe had felt in my heart and on my lips that day a year ago, and I knew I had to get these girls there. This time, I didn’t ask. I just decided we were going to keep walking.
We continued, and I worried we had missed it. “Surely not. Surely it’s impossible to miss something so beautiful, right?” I thought to myself, as if I hadn’t already passed at least 100 beautiful things during our walk. Finally, we neared a fallen log in the creek. I recognized the way the sun broke the shade and onto the water just on the other side, and I said to the girls, “We need to climb.”
Jumping onto dry rocks and pushing leafy limbs to the side, we passed the log. “Keep looking to the left. It has to be on the left.” Finally, as our eyes moved from the creek bed we walked on to the trees above us, we came to it. We met the clearing of the trees that revealed a bright green, towering pasture. The sun gave a shimmer to the waters around us, and we looked up towards the hill on our left. Through a narrow clearing in the trees, we could see the rolling pasture just beside us, and the blue sky that loomed over it. Living in a world of blues and greens, I immediately heard the girls bring a voice to the awe I been hiding in my heart.
As we stood watching the motionless, unchanging hill, one of the girls said, “I don’t think anyone could look at this and not believe that God made it.” And when the mother cow just up ahead continued moo-ing, and we squealed and giggled as the baby calf galloped across the pasture, I knew then that my previous memory of this place was not enough. I knew this was the kind of moment that deserved to be remembered. On the lines of a page stacked on the shelves of my library-heart, this moment rested.
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The next day I came to the bank of the same creek. As I read page after page about the promises of a God who loves me as much as the people in the book, I stopped. Closing the cover, I looked up at the gray sky overhead. I listened to the moving spring on my left and the trickling creek on my right. I sat and listened. And every ounce of pride I had– the same pride that claimed relentlessly the quiet doesn’t bother me– was broken. Shattering in the grass all around me, I thought, “How can You do this?”
How can a God– the same one who mightily led His people to a place of restoration and security in the pages beside me– bring me here? He could throw fire on every tree and piece of dirt lining the bank. He could part every cloud in the sky and make the sun relentlessly beam down on me. He could stop the very movement of the waters, and move the same pasture I had seen only the day before. He could do anything with all He had created–
but instead, he called me here.
He called me to a place of peace when the very fibers of my heart began to strain under pressure. He called me to a place of silence after I had joked about hearing the sound of my own voice. He called me to be still after a week of pouring this big life He had given me into 60 junior high students. This God who could do anything or nothing at all had wanted me in this place.
Would you believe me if I told you this was hard for me? It’s hard for me to even reach my dirt-ridden hands out to this idea of being cared for out of choice. Passion-filled, desire-driven choice. Because here’s the thing: the spring doesn’t argue with Him. The spring doesn’t stop giving life to those who meet it. And the creek? She doesn’t stop moving. She doesn’t come to a place of complacency, but instead fearlessly moves. With the rippling of a gentle current, she does everything she was created to do without a doubt. She’s confident, she’s graceful, and she’s nothing less than what God told her to be when He spoke movement into her.
He could love this creek and spring more than me. He could look on these obeying, serving waters with more pride and awe than He looks on me. As I thought about this– I mean, as I downright arm wrestled this thought in my heart– I remembered the lilies of the field clothed in all their splendor and the birds of the air, and that resounding question, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” With all the dirt under my fingernails, the sweat on my brow, and the stubbornness in my heart, I let him win. I looked at those pieces of pride all around me, and I said over and over: He still loves me more than the graceful waters. He loves me more than the waters.
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The camp director I work for gave the staff a mid-week / mid-summer pep talk the other day. He told us to not get so caught up in sweeping that we forget to look up in awe at the fireworks just overhead. I went back to cabin and made bold the words in my journal, “Make a memory every day.” I started writing down all the big and small things I didn’t want to leave forgotten during the week. When it came to the part about meeting with God at the creek, I paused–
I left those shattered pieces of my pride beside the creek that day. I’m sure I’ll try and go back for a piece or two at some point, but for that day, it was enough to see them shimmer on the ground and know I did not need them. For that day, it was enough to know His promises. To know of His mighty strength and His infinite, unsurpassable love for my broken bones and me. It was enough to want to know that more and more everyday–
And underneath the bold words “Things I don’t want to forget,” I scribbled on the next empty line in my notebook: “The moment God promised He loves me more than the waters.“