It was a crisp winter morning, with a sky so clear and blue you wondered if God had simply done away with clouds forever. We put in on a white sand beach and headed off with our paddles dipping rhythmically at first, but eventually lying across our laps for the bulk of the trip as we drifted along with the current.
We saw turtles by the dozen, sunning on logs near the shore, ducks splashing ahead of us by the river’s edge, a heron that seemed to taxi across the top of the water before its take-off, and an owl that took flight from a huge cypress branch as we passed him,. We scared up one poor water bird of some sort that would fly on ahead, and then as we came round the next bend, fly again. I felt sorry for the poor fellow. If he had only flown inland twenty or thirty feet and waited for us to pass, he could have stayed where he was. I wondered how far from home he finally ended up.
We passed small streams emptying noisily into the bigger river, and backwaters that sat still and quiet, forested with cypress knees, and impervious to the river’s current. I am happy to report that we saw no alligators at all.
About noon we pulled onto a white sand bar, sat in the shade of a scraggly myrtle, and dug into a backpack for a lunch of biscuits and sausage leftover from breakfast and a canteen of water. We wandered around and found some deer tracks by the water’s edge, freshly made we knew, because it had rained the night before.
Then a half hour or so later, as we drifted on down the river, we suddenly found ourselves tangled among the branches of a cypress that had fallen into the river. We had not kept a lookout and floated right into it. Since we were there anyway, and stuck, we had a snack of tangerines, dropping the peels into the water to see if fish enjoyed that sort of thing. Evidently they don’t, so we extricated ourselves from among the branches and once again caught the current going downriver.
That stop made a small respite but this morning it makes a big point. We spent most of the four and a half hours on the water drifting. We seldom put our oars in unless we saw something ahead that we wanted to avoid, usually fallen trees in the water, some just under the surface scraping the bottom of the canoe. Sometimes as we came round a bend, the current would send us toward shore and we had to paddle to keep from bottoming out. Usually it was no problem to stay out of trouble. That one time was a result of becoming so entranced with our surroundings that we did not notice what lay ahead.
That is probably the way we wind up getting in trouble in our spiritual lives too. We get distracted by things, not necessarily sinful things, but things that keep our attention too long from the direction we should be going. When you are looking around, you can’t paddle straight, so you wind up drifting where the current takes you, and in this world, that may be a dangerous place. More likely it will be into a bend in the river where the current swirls around in a slow, endless eddy, leading you nowhere.
So be careful of your surroundings today, be careful that the things of this world do not take too much of your time and energy away from things of the next world. You need to be involved in this world—how else can your light shine? But you do not need to wrap yourself up in it to the point that it squeezes out your spirituality and concern for Eternity. When visiting a lonely widow, cooking for a family burdened by illness, studying the Bible, or assembling with the saints becomes simply one more thing on a “to do” list, on the same plane as the PTA meeting, the piano lesson, and the Little League schedule, the priorities of life need a serious overhaul, even if it means giving up something.
Don’t drift into the fallen logs and trees that will scrape up your soul. Don’t let the bottom of your canoe bump against things that could tip you and drown out your spirituality. Don’t bottom out, mired in the mud of life’s responsibilities. Don’t spend so much time looking at the world as you pass it by, that it winds up meaning more to you than the one you are supposed to be headed for.
And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. Luke 8:14.