About a half mile from my house in the Leisuretowne development there is a small bridge. For the past six years I have frequently walked across that bridge during my exercise walks. I always stop to take in the view from the bridge. Then I usually take time to sit on the park bench near the bridge. There I take a good long look at the beautiful view, framed by some of the trees in the park. I see a lake with quiet, calm and peaceful waters, ducks swimming, birds flying. Sometimes someone is fishing or rowing their boat on the lake. There’s a small island in the distance. Recently, while I was sitting in this serene setting I was thinking about what I would write for the next week’s Today’s Enlightenment blog. I was reminded of the 23rd Psalm, where the writer tells how God leads him alongside green pastures and still waters. Where I live is not farmland, so there are no green pastures. However, there is a lot of greenery in the form of grass, trees, and flowers. As I sat there thinking, I came to understand that God was giving me some insight about the relationship between this beautiful view, the 23rd Psalm, and the theme of hope, which is what Patty and I are always trying to give our readers.
When I look at the view from the park bench, all I can see is the beautiful scene before me. There’s nothing to distract from it. Not only do I see the view of the lake, but I also hear the sound of running water. This doesn’t seem possible, since the water in the lake is so calm and peaceful. However, as I walk back onto the bridge, my eyes are drawn to where the relatively loud sound of the running water is coming from. I look down over the railing of the bridge just slightly, and I see a small dam where the calm and quiet water of the lake becomes a loud and rushing waterfall.
I’ve gotten used to that. There’s nothig wrong with having that little dam where it is. But it isn’t a thing of visual beauty. It is by no means a Niagara Falls. However, it can be a distraction from the beautiful view of the lake. But I can always go over to the park bench, where I can again gaze at the view of the lake, framed by the trees, without the dam. So that’s what I do. Sometimes I also walk across the street to the opposite side of the bridge. As I look over the railing on that side of the bridge, the view is not so impressive. Instead I’m looking at the woods. I’m also looking at a small body of water. It seems that after the quiet, calm, and serene water of the lake is transformed into a noisy waterfall as it goes over the dam, and then it passes under the bridge, it becomes gently flowing stream, which runs with just a slight rippling sound, into the woods.
As I continued in my thoughts at the lake, it began to give me some insight. It became clear to me that the water in the setting I have described, is always going through various stages of life, just as human beings go through stages of life. The water in the peaceful and calm lake is the same water which becomes a waterfall, which eventually becomes a stream in the woods. As the water travels through this route, it is transformed. It starts out almost silently, hardly moving at all, but ever so slowly moves toward the dam. Eventually the dam takes hold of and transforms the water so that it becomes a waterfall moving with great speed, sound, and turmoil. Having gotten through all of that, it is further transfomed as it becomes an almost silent, gently flowing stream. It is again at peace.
I think that most of us would like to spend our lives like the water as it is in a peaceful and calm lake or a gently flowing stream. We don’t want to become like a furious, turmoil filled waterfall going headlong over the dam. But the reality is that life doesn’t work that way. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, we will all face and experience some of the waterfalls of life. That’s the bad news. The good news is that just as it is with the water in the calm and peaceful lake, which sooner or later become a waterfall, and finally a gently flowing stream, we too can be transformed. There is always hope for us. We too can move on to another stage of life. Which brings me back to the 23d Psalm.
The more I think about this process, the more it reminds me of the 23rd Psalm, and vice-versa. In the Bible I’m now looking at, the 23rd Psalm is divided into three paragraphs. The first paragraph consists of the first three verses. In these verses we find the writer experiencing the calm and peaceful life most people desire. The next paragraph consists of just one verse. Here the writer is making it known that the troubles of life have intruded upon the peace and calm that he once experienced. However, he has hope that he will be saved from all of his trouble. He has hope because he trusts God. He is therefore not afraid. He knows that God is comforting him as he goes through this difficult part of life. In the last paragraph are the The final two verses. Here the writer finds that even though he is still facing his problems, God is in the process of fulfilling his hopes that he will again experience the good life that God provided before. But more than that, he knows that God will continue to fulfill his hopes. The best is yet to come. More than that, there will come a time when the best will be forever.
Whenever I stop to look at the water, as it is transformed from lake to waterfall to stream, I am reminded that the 23rd Psalm tells the truth. I am reminded that in terms of my life experience, I’ve been where the writer of the Psalm has been. I spent the first 41 years experiencing life as though I was the water in the calm and peaceful lake, with everything that mattered going my way. There was never a dam in sight. I thanked God for that.
Then came a time when my life of having it all my way came to an end. I experienced life as the waterfall. I lived without any sense of hope for a better future. Searching for a reason to be alive. But somehow I sensed that God was still working in my life. Even though I had lost hope, God still had hopes for me. And when I began to listen to God instead of trying to get over my troubles without Him, I heard and accepted His hopes and plans for me. I began to cooperate with God by doing my part in seeing those hopes fulfilled.
That went on for just over a year. Since then, over the last 29 years I have experienced God’s loving guidance and direction in my life. I have sought his will, his plans, and his hopes for my future. Despite some storms along the way, I’ve been experiencing the life of the gently flowing stream. And with God’s guidance, direction, and help, that’s the life I will always live on this earth, and then forever in that place we call heaven. That’s what I hope for. And I believe that as long as my hopes continue to be in tune with God’s hopes for me, they will be fulfilled. In God’s time. In God’s way.
I have found that the 23rd Psalm is a message of hope because it summarizes, in just six verses, the message of all the Psalms put together. It summarizes how God works in our lives. God guides and directs us in the right ways. And when trouble comes our way, God does not give up on us. So there is no reason for us to give up on ourselves. God always has hopes for us. But we need to do our part. That is, do our best to discover what God’s hopes are for us, with God’s help and grace, pursue them. And then leave the results in God’s hands.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray