The Beauty of a Powerful Stillness

Spokane River at sunset - Post Falls, Idaho

Spokane River at sunset - Post Falls, Idaho

Though man was made to rule the beasts and the birds of the air, all of nature speaks to how man might rule himself. What is more difficult? Ruling hippos and hyenas, hummingbirds and hawks, or the hidden, deeper waters of the human heart?

Last spring, I made my annual trip to Post Falls, Idaho, with my good friend and fellow Grove board member, Rick Dunn. His family has a place along the Spokane River and it's the place for our annual two-man guys retreat. Three or four days of reading, quiet, movies, long conversations about God, life, family and career. Oh yeah, wine, beer, cigars and good food.

From the Dunn's back patio, it is a stunning view of the mountains above with a pine tree backdrop to the river that slowly streams by. At any given moment, there are bald eagles flying overhead, deer along the opposite bank, and Canadian geese honking and nipping at one another.

The view is always spectacular. I've seen it many times. And therein lies the danger. When we become familiar with beauty, losing touch with wonder and awe, we become complacent.

And so, on the final day of this year's trip, it was late afternoon and evening was upon us.

"I'm going fishing," I declared to Rick. I grabbed one of the poles in the closet and headed out. Little did I know that my little fishing trip to the water's edge was about to be hijacked by the beauty of a powerful stillness.

RIVER

After countless casts into the gently flowing river and not getting a single bite, the silence at the water's edge finally caught my attention. As the sun made it's slow descent into darkness, all of creation's color wheel began to spin all around me. I looked across the river's glassy surface and it was the smoothest mirror of moving water I've ever seen.

Pine tree shadows etched into the water's reflections. A patina of pink airbrushed the sky as rich blues and ever-changing purples skirted the underbelly of distant clouds. The still moving water absorbed it all, mirroring the soft burning colors in the fading light. If water and stillness had a voice, I was beginning to hear their call to listen and learn.

DEPTH

Maybe the fish weren't biting because of the current? The river wasn't particularly swift or rushing, but it was steady with a weighty deliberation; it's width and volume unmistakable. Maybe the fish had swam deeper; to the safety of the depths. But as I wondered how deep the river was at its midpoint, I couldn't help, but think of the dangers that lurked below.

Over the years, I'd seen huge log after log float downstream. I knew that down in the depths were unseen trees, once towering giants, now jammed and wedged among rocks, pinned against boulders, held down by the forceful hands of physics and pressure, weight and gravity. The depths did offer safety, but it depended on what was swimming and what was stuck.

POWER

In the distance, a subtle, incessant roar. A massive cement dam with six steel gates offered the slow-moving water an irrevocable entrance to a maelstrom of cascading power and spray. The stillness of the river surrendered to the crashing weight of a one-hundred foot waterfall. Hearing the thunder of the falls, I wondered the relationship between surrender and power. Like a river, does one perhaps follow the other?

Nearby is a local park alongside the river and a bridge that overlooks the falls. In my mind's eye, I had stood on the bridge many times to watch the black velvet texture of the river approach the falls only to collapse over the edge, dropping its dark, weighty density to the light, airy whiteness of mist and spray. Again, I wondered, can my misplaced notions of surrender, the weight and gravity I assign to it, be an illusion compared the beauty it brings?

BEAUTY

Taking in everything around me -- the mountains, the trees, the river, the sky, the falls -- God awoke something deep in my heart.

This is what I want my life to be like...

Stillness. Depth. Power. Beauty.

I want stillness, yet I'm still too busy. I want depth, but oh, what danger to go there. I want power, but my surrender seems so half-hearted.

I want beauty, but knowing what I see in the last moments of daylight may take a lifetime before I reach my final sunset.

Question: In what ways do you find that stillness, depth, power or beauty is life-giving to you?

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