Take Me to the River
Jesus called over a child and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in.” – Matthew 18:2-3 (MSG)
I love sweep rowing. I rise to the challenge of moving in sync with my crew, and I rejoice in the beauty of sunrise on a river that feeds bald eagles and great blue herons. Rowing gives me joy, community, fitness, and a sense of accomplishment.
But before the advent of coronavirus vaccines, eight rowers to a boat was not Covid-safe. To row through the pandemic, we had to go back to square one and start over like children. We became a club of solitary rowers in long, skinny boats.
On my first day of sculling, I flipped the boat even before leaving the dock. On the second day I ran aground on a sandbar. On the fourth day I flipped the boat in the middle of the river. On the fifth day I considered giving up.
Writer-activist Valarie Kaur says, “Discomfort is the beginning of transformation.” Jesus says starting over is the beginning of the childlike humility that opens our hearts to God.
On my sixth day of sculling humiliation, I began to feel more at ease in the boat. Eventually, I grew to love sculling.
Whenever the painful realities of racism and other injustices discomfort, discourage, and tempt me to quit the struggle, I remember my early sculling days. Whether we’re learning something new or trying to transform something old and ongoing, the only way out is through.
Take me to the river, rock me to square one, until I am fit to dwell in your heart.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.