Hope Floats

Friday, 22 February 2008
Posted by Neugier

It is a humid, cold day here in the Tennesse valley.
At least it looks that way from my office in the governmental building.
The two floors immediately above me are full of court rooms, which will process over two hundred cases today; everything from marriages and divorces to murder and mayhem.
The windows behind me face the Tennessee River. The windows are rattling now, louder and louder, shouting the anguish of lives in pain.
My windows rattle everytime the inmates in the two floors immediately below me shake the bars of their jail cells and bang on the pipes. Sometimes their food is late. Sometimes their cells are too cold. Sometimes it is the only control they can exert over their own lives: shaking their prison bars.
On either side of my window is a bridge; one is green painted steel. The other is concrete streaked with moss.
On the opposite side of the river, the Baptist Hospital stares back at me through the morning fog, abandoned by the sun.
The steel bridge is the more popular of the two for suicide. Why? The dead won't say.
In the middle of a bridge standing on the edge, someone's child, someone's sister, someone's parent, someone's spouse looks down at the murky moving river which is their life. On one side of this lone figure are court rooms and prison bars, and on the other side, a hospital.
I and others on the river look on as a life arcs gracefully, silently, almost reverently through the cold misty air, the last seconds of a life ticking away, disappearing beneath the lapping waves.
The faces pressed against the windows across the river are silent. Wide eyes, tear stained faces, open silent mouths, tight heavy chests: "If only we could have treated him." The faces pressed against the windows on my side of the river are silent. Wide eyes, tear stained faces, open silent mouths, tight heavy chests: "If only we could have protected her."
Now more and more boats with flashing red lights and rubber-skinned divers churn through the water looking for the evidence of a departed soul.
Slowly but surely, one by one, the eyes in the windows steel furtive glances at their watches. How long do we weep? How long do we mourn? How long should we care? Mustn't life go on? Phones' incessant rings: a guilty jolt back from reality.
Tonight there will be an empty place at a dinner table, an empty pillow beside someone's head, an empty heart in someone's chest, an empty seat in a pew, an empty coffin to be bought, an empty grave to be filled.
In the film The African Queen, the heroes make a long, arduous journey down the river toward the sea, until their boat gets stranded on a dry riverbed. Too exhausted and exasperated to move, they give up and fall asleep. As the camera pans up to a view from above, we see that they are just around the bend from the ocean they seek. That night heavy rains fall and replenish the river, which floats the African Queen to the ocean. When the couple awakens in the morning, they realize they have arrived.
When something seems to be going wrong, hold space for the possibility that something bigger may be going right. Do all you can do peacefully on your own behalf, and let God support you in deeper ways than you can fathom. Hold the high watch and let God help you with the details. Your ship may be closer to the ocean than you know.
If you drown yourself in your river, you are missing the boat. Get in the boat of Hope in God and let your river take you into the vast ocean of God's blessings.