God is in the stream

Daily Readings – Deuteronomy 1-2, 1 Corinthians 8, Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

Psalm 46:1-5

The waves of the ocean wreaking havoc as they crash repeatedly against the rocks of the soar; roaring, foaming, and surging, is such a perfect metaphor for our modern life mentally.

There are so many times in my life when it absolutely feels like the waters of life roar and foam and mountains quake at their surging. It seems like I am barely able to keep up with the responsibilities of life and it is a constant balancing act to juggle numerous career responsibilities, personal obligations, taking care of myself physically, and family time. It inevitably feels like one of those is on the verge of being dropped and it takes extremely dexterous juggling to keep them all in the air.

The waters surge. My mind is busy.

This morning at 1:30 AM was one of those mornings. Stress would not be the correct word for how I felt this morning when I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Just mentally cluttered. It was hard to turn my brain off as I tossed and turned. Finally I gave in and accepted the fact that I wasn’t falling back asleep any time soon and maybe I should get up and spend time with God.

So I went downstairs, grabbed a glass of water, and settled in to see what God had for me today. What truth did he want to uncover? Well, not exactly…

Before I did that, I looked over my schedule for the day, planned out next week, took care of a couple of logistical items so that they were off my plate, and then turned to God’s word.

I turned to Psalm 46 and had to laugh at myself.

“God is our refuge and strength.”

Strange how it wasn’t written: “Aaron’s ability to plan, attention to detail, willingness to knock out logistics at 1:30 AM is his refuge and strength…”

But man oh man, isn’t that what we want to do so often in life?

“God, I will be right back. I am really looking forward to my ‘refuge time’ after I handle everything else in my own strength. Let me knock out these 2-3 items and then I am all yours.”

When the waves surge and we could use God’s tranquility the most, we tend to want to lean on our own ingenuity, independence, and ability to handle whatever comes our way. In America we are coached into this independence and self-reliance being the highest form of existence. We aren’t supposed to need anybody! We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and chase after the American Dream.

God says, “Let me be your refuge. Let me be your strength. You might have the same tight schedule tomorrow, the same responsibilities, the same balls you need to juggle, but the burden is so much lighter when you take my yoke upon your shoulders, when you allow me to walk with you throughout your entire day and not simply when you have carved out ‘God Time’.”

I love the picture that is painted in verses 4 and 5 of “a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

When I walk in my own strength it really does feel like swimming in the ocean when the red flags are up on the beach. I love swimming in the ocean on vacation and probably don’t heed warnings as much as I should. When the red flags are up, rip tides are in full force, waves are pounding the shores with vengeance, and it is probably not a time to be in the water; I sometimes can’t help myself. My wife rolls her eyes.

There is a certain amount of adventure swimming at these times if you have swam quite a bit throughout your life and comfortable in this chaos. There is adrenaline and excitement in feeling like you are waging war with nature. However, when I eventually get back to the shore I am beat up and exhausted.

That is exactly how I feel when trying to let me own strength be my refuge. It can be a daring adventure for a time and I convince myself that I am good at it, but then ultimately it is just tiring.

When I sit next to a slow moving stream in the woods, however, that is an entirely different experience. My soul is at peace. There is so much beauty and tranquility to appreciate in nature. I leave that experience with my tank full.

God is in the stream. God is in the quiet moments where we settle our mind, remind ourselves where our true refuge is, and allow God to quiet the surging seas.

Your responsibilities will still be there, but when you remind yourself that you can only accomplish one of them at a time, intentionally choose to be in the present moment, allow God into your everyday activities, and choose to view your life as a peaceful stream even if it feel like a chaotic ocean, God is ready to come alongside you.

So come out of the roaring waters today and take a seat by the stream running through the city of God, the holy place, where the Most High dwells!

It is 3:04 AM and I am going to resist the urge to “be productive” since I am already up and awake. I am going back to bed and regardless of whether I fall back asleep, I am going to spend time at the stream.

Thought to ponder

What aspects of my life have I recently allowed to consume me mentally to the point where they feel like a roaring sea?

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