A Hand in the Flood
Listen to “A Hand In The Flood” by Fred Smith
The Bible reminds us, “With a strong hand and an outstretched arm His love endures forever. We are safe in His hand and with His firm hand He is with us when we pass through the waters and when we pass through the rivers that threaten to sweep over us and overwhelm us.”
I love that strong hand and outstretched arm. Especially when life is overwhelming. Mike Gerson’s stunning sermon on Sunday at The National Cathedral reminded me of an incident in my own life. Not depression but fear.
A few years ago, I was in just such a river and desperately afraid of being swept away. To get there a group of us had picked our way carefully over fallen trees and slippery boulders. Every step was calculated and tested to keep from tumbling or wedging a foot between sharp rocks and slabs of granite.
Our goal was a waterfall at the bottom of a straight drop from a Canadian glacier thousands of feet above us. Getting to the falls meant crossing a deep and rapid stream surging against rocks and spilling down a chute. When I stepped off the last ledge and into the current, I was instantly up to my chest in freezing water that took my breath away.
Beneath me, I could feel the pull of the flood as it rushed toward another descent into boulders below. I could sense my legs starting to give and the sudden reality of sinking into the undertow made me know I was in a situation I could no longer control. I was over my head and in trouble. What had begun as an afternoon adventure was now more of a challenge than I had understood only a few minutes ago.
This was not in the brochure and I was not having fun.
Not only was the current tugging at me and the water numbing me but looking ahead I could not see where the rocks were to keep me from stepping into the deeper places in the stream. In a situation like that, you don’t wonder how everyone else is doing. All you can do is focus on your own dilemma. You pull in almost completely.
Above the roar, I heard a voice: “Fred, over here. Grab my hand.” I looked up and my friend was standing with one arm outstretched and the other pointing toward a flat rock in front of me. I grabbed his hand and made it. I looked to my left and there a few feet away was another member of our group standing knee deep with her hand pointing and pulling me up to balance for a moment on a shelf below the surface. I had a final few yards to go up a steep and seemingly impossible incline when a third hand reached out from above and hoisted me out of the water and next to him where the footing was safe. I looked back and they were doing that for everyone crossing. Somehow, they had gotten into the water and in place knowing from experience we were going to flounder.
I’ve thought about those friends and their hands quite a lot since then. I’ve come to think of them as not simply standing in the stream but being stationed in the stream. They were there on purpose because they knew we would not make it across without their hands. I had no idea they were there when I dropped off that first ledge into the frigid water. I thought I was alone and on my own to get through. I wasn’t. They were there to pass me along from one to the next. They were there to make sure I found my footing and watched me until I was safely to the next station. Their hands were there to get me across and over.
Some of you reading this are working hard against the undertow. No one knows it and you are so narrowly focused on surviving you cannot look around and see how others are doing. Some of you are picking your way across slippery places hoping not to lose your footing. Some of you are numb and frozen.
But, others of you are in struggling people’s lives because you have been stationed there by God to reach out a hand to steady and point to the next place. You are in the stream because you’ve been in this same place before and someone gave you a hand at a time when you needed it.
I know this because I’ve been in the flood and what God says is true: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you…For I am The Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
* “Flight of the Thielens 1938″ by Thomas Hart Benton