The Joyful River and the Road of Resistance
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for God has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.” – Psalm 24:1-2
On the Monday of the week when this country reached the point of literal children being held in literal cages at the US/Mexico border (or at least became aware of it), I found myself fly fishing on a river near another border: the Canadian one.
As I had driven north from my home, I passed a Border Patrol checkpoint on the interstate. Each southbound car was being pulled over and each passenger asked about their citizenship status. I drove on, knowing my driver’s license and passport card were safely tucked into my wallet, and that I could pass by easily.
Standing in the river later that day, I felt the weight of privilege press in on me. I didn’t have to worry about borders. I have not (yet) been threatened with my own cage. I had the means and resources to take a few days away from my work in order to do nothing more than fish. I would return to a comfortable home and the loving embrace of (for now) legally-recognized family.
I felt guilty that in a time when there is so much pain, I should have so much comfort. And yet, as I looked out at the river, rolling by me in a never-ending current, and at the trees and sky, and even at the beautiful colors of the rainbow trout I released back into icy-cold waters, I felt something else too: joy. God’s creation is too beautiful to not appreciate when we see it, and too awe-inspiring to not be taken seriously as well.
So much of surviving in this difficult time depends on our ability to be able to sustain ourselves for the work yet to come. There is enough work to do to keep us occupied every minute of every day. And yet, if we burn out now, in the early innings, the powers of oppression and death will prevail well before the game is over.
By Wednesday morning I was back at the work of “resisting the powers of oppression and evil” as our baptismal vows read. I did my work with a renewed mind and body, and a spirit full of courage and faith. I’d like to think that I did better work for the fact I’d had a little rest and a little joy.
This will be a long journey of resistance. We are going to need everyone for every step of the way. Do the things that let you keep marching. Take the trip. Take the nap. Take pleasure in the joyful things you love. They will help you to keep going, and they will remind you that God is always with us, on the seas, on the rivers, and everywhere.
God, in the midst of the toughest days, may I still find glimpses of joy. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter (New Hampshire) and the author most recently of Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear.