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The Stream of Life


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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?

I whispered:

 “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.


Photo credit: AlicePopkorn via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

16 thoughts on “The Stream of Life

  1. To you my brother I say Amen ,not to a end of yours and everyone who knows of Jacob but that peace is at last in your heart .One day we who love our God will see each other once again to give him Glory and praise together .All my love on this day to you and your family

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Gone, I’ve wanted to get over here for days. I’m sorry I didn’t make it sooner. This post . . . Profound. Thank you for the reminder that we live for something beyond ourselves. We find hope in the truth that God has purposes for us, and has purposes us for special things while here.

    Too many thoughts in my head to say more. Just that I loved this post. Beautifully said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeanne, I always appreciate your insights and encouragement. As you know, this blogging thing involves a lot of time and effort. I don’t have a great imagination so I write about what I know or have experienced in life. I don’t want my son’s death to be the thing that defines me, but I did have to find a new normal in life after he was killed. Today I read a lot of blogs from self-proclaimed “grief experts” who I believe sidestep the “real” in order to appear like they have found the “cure.” The truth is that in order to survive grief we have to at some point address the weighty issue of there being either a merciless or non-existent God. I don’t care how strong one’s faith may have been, the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one raises the question of God. That experience was a defining moment in my life. So, even though I don’t want it to be, I guess Jake’s death does define who I’ve become. I find it healing to periodically write about my journey…it helps me by highlighting the hope I have in our eternal God.
      “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found lacking; it has been found difficult and left untried.” — G.K. Chesterton

      Liked by 2 people

  3. And what a joyous day that will be! It seems like ages to wait, but one day ‘soon’ you and Jacob will be reunited to never, ever part again. That brings me so much joy to know you and your beloved wife have such a wonderful reunion ahead of you. And to Jacob, it will seem like he was only apart from you for half a day. What a faithful God we serve! Great post as usual. Thanks for sharing your heart Gene.

    Liked by 2 people

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