Ain’t No River

Jan 25, 2005Find joy today

There’s something triumphant about Diana Ross and the Supremes. Of late, when I’m in a particularly unwieldy mood, I turn on “Ain’t No Mountain.” The chorus goes:


Ain’t no mountain high enough
Ain’t no valley low enough
Ain’t no river wide enough
to keep me from getting to you
I’ve been thinking about that chorus. It whirls in my head in a playful taunt. If I direct the song to Jesus, is it really true that there is no obstacle that will keep me from God? I read, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, no height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
So, yes, I know (or do I, really?) that there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God. What about the opposite scenario? Are there mountains, valleys or rivers between me and the Lover of my soul? And if so, what do I do about them? Do I avoid them in defeat, forsaking the great prize of knowing Him? Or do I persevere despite the height, depth and width of the obstacles before me?
I believe many Christians lack tenacity. Confronted by a high mountain smack dab in a pilgrim’s spiritual journey, often we recoil. The truth is there are valleys low enough to keep us from our pursuit of God. There are rivers wide enough that make us want to quit. There are obstacles aplenty that loom so menacing, we’d rather stay in the place of familiarity than take the risk necessary to walk deeper into the heart of God.
This year, I’ve faced a mountain: the fear of moving away from everything normal and safe. Yes, I knew that was God’s wooing call to me and my family, but frankly, there were many times I’d rather stay planted in good ol’ American suburbia. You know what? Though the task seemed (and was) daunting, I’m glad we did it. I was feeling stagnant spiritually. I knew that taking steps away from comfort and toward the unknown made me rely on the Lord that much more. It made me dependent. I became more like a child holding her father’s hand in a crowded mall–more vulnerable, more needy, but also more connected.
I’ve walked through valleys so dark I thought the blackness would snuff out my tender wick. The valleys have been so painful that I am reticent to walk through another. Most of these valleys are called the valley of healing–that place where God cuts out a particular pain, cleans the wound, and stitches it back up. Would I trade my valley dwelling? No. Like a traveler on a journey from valley to heights, if I don’t walk the path from pain to healing, from open wound to sacred scar, then I won’t see the new vista, won’t know new parts of my Creator’s heart.
I’ve trudged through wide rivers, so relentless the water threatens to fill my lungs and snuff my life. This is where I am today–at a clearing facing a rushing Spring river. This river is for cleansing, and it’s the hardest place to be. To step even a toe in its rush, I must acknowledge my deep propensity for sin, my bent toward selfishness. I can make it through many days forgetting that I am desperately selfish, desperately in need of His pardon and grace. But so often, I shut out the nagging voices in my head that whisper, Are you living for yourself? The river is wide, but for me it is a passage I must make if I want to know God more intimately. The Scripture says, “Though the Lord is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar” (Psalm 138:6). I don’t want to be known from afar. I want to be known from “anear.” If I shrink in laziness or pride from crossing the wide river of repentance, I will miss out on the treasures of deeper relationship with God.
I’ve stumbled over mountains–often falling, often turning back, often tripping.
I’ve lost my way in the valleys–often stumbling, often willing myself on, often tired.
I’ve longed to be a consistent river wader. Although it is my heart to put my toe in and test the waters of His forgiveness, I recoil from its fresh coldness. May it be that I can sing
Ain’t no river wide enough
to keep me from getting to You.
I pray that we all dare to move from frightened to faithful, from viewing mountains, valleys and rivers with defeat or undue trepidation to seeing them as avenues that bring us into deeper places with the Almighty.
If today you face
A mountain high
A valley low
A river wide
I pray you’d take one small emancipated step toward the Father’s heart. Don’t let anything prevent you from taking that first step.