Gather at the River

At what point in your life did you discover that there was very little about the world or yourself over which you had control?  Were you a young child, a pre-teen, a teenager, a young adult, an adult – or have you yet to make this discovery?  I think I began learning this lesson when I was a child, but it took me years to consciously embrace the limits of my power and, even now, I keep forgetting that I don’t have as much control as I would like to have.  I often catch myself believing in the illusion that I – all by myself – can make everything allright.  If I am a perfect parent, my children will grow up to be wonderful adults.  If I pastor correctly, the church I serve will thrive.  If I manage my money well, I will have economic stability – not only now, but when I retire, also.  If I eat the correct foods, exercise regularly, and get yearly checkups, I will be healthy and live a long life.  If I just do life PERFECTLY, then everything will be just fine!

And then, when I’m tired, or hungry, or frustrated – when I don’t have the energy and the motivation to keep up the illusion – I realize all over again that it doesn’t matter whether I do everything perfectly or not.  The truth is that there is very little over which I have control.  I can do everything PERFECTLY and my children will still have challenges, my church may or may not thrive, the economy will do what it will, and I can still get sick! 

Instead of living like a mouse running frantically in an exercise wheel because everything is up to me, I need to stop and invite God into the picture.  I need to throw myself onto the mercy and grace of God.  

I read a quote recently that touched me.  It is attributed to George Eliot:  “How will you find good?  It is not a thing of choices; it is a river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, and flows by the path of obedience.”  I love the image of a river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, the throne of mercy and grace.  It is a river of goodness and God-ness, a river in which we can swim and delight.  It is always available to us, but we must stop in our frantic push to “do” life correctly and take a dip in it.  It will refresh us and renew us – and remind us that God, not us, is in control.

As the quote states, this river “flows by the path of obedience.”  If we are obedient to God, we will get out of God’s way so that his mercy and grace can flow into our lives and our world.  We will seek his will and walk in his way.  When we are weak, we will ask his power to work through our weaknesses.  We will, in short, let God be God, and let ourselves be merely human.

There is a beautiful hymn that comes to mind as I write about the river that flows from the foot of the invisible throne, and I will end by sharing with you the lyrics and a website where you can hear it being sung:


Shall we gather at the river, Where bright angel feet have trod, With its crystal tide forever Flowing by the throne of God?

REFRAIN:  Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river; Gather with the saints at the river That flows by the throne of God.

On the margin of the river, Washing up its silver spray, We will talk and worship ever, All the happy golden day.


Ere we reach the shining river, Lay we every burden down; Grace our spirits will deliver, And provide a robe and crown.


At the smiling of the river, Mirror of the Savior’s face, Saints, whom death will never sever, Lift their songs of saving grace.


Soon we’ll reach the silver river, Soon our pilgrimage will cease; Soon our happy hearts will quiver With the melody of peace. 


Yes, let us gather at the river, receive the mercy and grace of God, and let it flow into our world and our lives.

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