Some called me reckless, they said Jacob was too young to fish on the river. I could have heeded their warning…I’m grateful I didn’t.
Jacob began to tag along with me at a very young age. He preferred rivers because there he was free to wade the water and explore their banks. Forever the inquisitive young boy, he paused to examine everything, often filling his pockets with the shells, rocks and other trinkets he found along the way.
Jake always thought outside the box. Wanting to see beyond the obvious, he would dissect every new experience. I can still picture him standing knee high in the river’s current, fascinated with the water rushing against his legs. He seemed to be testing the flow at different points around his body and I wondered what was going through his young mind.
He finally turned to me and asked:
“Dad, where do the fish rest?”
We often sat along the bank where he gave me the third degree about my childhood. Jake wanted to know every detail. We once had a thirty minute conversation about my grandfather’s outhouse. Thirty minutes! He wanted facts. Was there a light for the nighttime? How did it flush? Did it ever fill-up? Who dug the hole? How deep was it? Did it stink? He went on like this every time he’d unearth a new part of my past. I loved those days—I loved that he was my son, and my friend.
In the early days following his death I would periodically return to the river just to sit along the bank and watch the water glide downstream. Those visits triggered emotions in me that ran the gamut from joy to sorrow and regret. I’d see objects and a variety of creatures sail past that I just knew would have caught Jake’s attention. Forgetting myself on one occasion I raised my finger as if to point. That spark of delight was quickly extinguished when I turned my head to comment and caught sight of the vacant place at my side. Jacob wasn’t there…and never would be again.
While seated there considering the fragile nature of life, a floating cork caught my attention. It was caught-up in the reverse current of an eddy. Trapped there in a rotating prison, its predicament mimicked my bout with grief. Would I ever escape the debilitating hold it had on me? Why was it so hard to tell myself it was time to move on?
“Jake, where do I find rest?”
The river seemed to paint a metaphoric picture of life itself. Born from an innocent trickle of water it fumbled along like a child learning to crawl. Slowly it built into a small stream, moving onward at its own leisure and teeming with new ecosystems. Growing in size and power, it cut its own path, gaining popularity and achieving purpose.
Is purpose something we randomly find, or something we’re born with?
Its definition seems to indicate a predetermined reason to exist—a predestined end to be attained. That notion in itself suggests a designer.
But what if there is no designer? What if we have no destiny and instead we’re just unleashed to our own adventure? Free to find fulfillment in doing whatever we want while sharing one common fate—death. Can we really find happiness doing whatever we want?
If anyone succeeded in achieving the pleasures of the world, it was King Solomon. He was considered to be the richest and wisest king to ever exist. Yet he eventually realized “having it all” was meaningless—neither satisfying nor lasting. Ultimately recognizing the rule and reign of God, at the end of his days he concluded the only life worthwhile is one of honor and obedience to God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14)
I believe he was right. Eventually the river gives way to the sea and becomes part of something much greater than itself.
On this, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Jacob’s death, I’m no longer the cork caught-up in the eddy. I’m free to flow peacefully through my stream of life, because I believe I’m part of something far bigger than just me. Something I couldn’t clearly see while struggling in the current. My perspective changed as I was able to stand back away from it—viewing it as a whole scene I can appreciate its beauty.
If that larger body is created with no purpose, with nothing more than random chance, then the life that flowed down that river, and any pleasures it found along the way, would sadly dump out into an empty abyss.
I, however, am part of the creation flowing through the channel, and my purpose is to recognize, worship and return to the presence of our Creator. Without that hope, my life, Jake’s life, all life would be utterly meaningless.
“To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1:7
I find rest in knowing that because of Jesus Christ, one day Jake and I will again sit together along the bank, catching up on life and basking in the glory of our Creator. Who knows, maybe this time, I’ll be the one asking all the questions to my Father, while Jake sits back and smiles at all I have to learn.