The Great River

So does everyone who reads the The Lord of the Rings suddenly see their life as a long journey and start seeing the applicability (not allegory, says Tolkien in the introduction) of the trilogy to their own lives?

Yesterday morning, I saw the Religious Society of Friends as a river, the Great River, Anduin.

For most of its course, the River flows fairly straight and strong. But occasionally it comes to a place of shallow rapids where the water is fast and the rocks are sharp. For some people, these places are exciting and for others they're just scary. Some people prefer to just get out and walk past them altogether.

In some places, the River widens out into deep, calm pools. It is placid on the surface, but who knows what lurks in the dark depths, for good or evil.

In other places, at other times, the River divides into a lot of little streams with bits of marshy ground in between. These times can be especially hard for us to travel across, but nonetheless, the water continues to flow through and eventually it all meets up again and flows on to the wide mouth of the River and on out into the great Sea.

And every once in a while, maybe once in a lifetime or once in a century, we come to a great Falls. Some people ride right on out over them and they crash and likely drown at the bottom. Others leave the River here and never come back. And some pick up their boats and carry them around the Falls - a short distance but very rough ground. I think in many ways the great schisms of our Society are like the Falls of Rauros.

And I realize that we are each on our own journey, our own river, and the hard thing is that unlike those following Anduin, we have no map - none of us has passed this way before and we don't know quite where we are. We are all out of our reckoning. We don't know how long the rapids will last or how far or high the Falls are. Sometimes we pass through a dark tunnel and come to find it's really the gate to a smoother passage. We don't know when we come to the marshy bits if it would be better to abandon our boats here or to try to carry them to the other side. But nonetheless, like the River Anduin, we flow on and we come out at the mouth of the Sea. We don't really know what we will find when we pass on into the Great Seas, but I believe that there we will encounter God in greater fullness.

And I find that in our Society, when we find the River joining together, we also experience God in greater fullness.


Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what God sees, wherever it is that God sits.

Wouldn't God still see one River--not just a river of the RSoF, but a River of all faith traditions and of all belief?

It's a sort of paradox that God cares for the tiniest among us and yet sees the Whole in a way we ourselves cannot.

I wonder if we are called to strive to view the peoples and creatures of the world as God sees all of it: one Family, one Body, one River.

Nice to read you again, Robin.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

11/23/2006 9:26 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Perhaps God in God's limitlessness sees all waters as one Water - but we humans or halflings are forced to travel one River if we are to come at last to the Sea...

Just an idea...

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

11/23/2006 9:06 PM  
Blogger Mystical Seeker said...

There are so many rivers to sea. It is probably better that we take some river, any river, than try to walk along the shore. Otherwise, we'll never make it to our destination. I don't think it matters what river we take, which is probably why I am a religious pluralist.

I just happened to stumble onto your blog. I had been a Quaker for a few years when I moved to San Francisco over a decade ago. Technically speaking, I am still a member of a meeting in another state. I attended the SF meeting off and on a few times, but never felt connected to it. Having moved around a bit and attended meeting in several states, one problem I've encountered--I hate to say this--is that Quakers are quite possibly the least welcoming of any denomination I have ever been involved with.

Eventually, I just left the river and didn't even walk along the shore any more. Only in the last few months have I decided to try a different route to the sea; so I've been attending a church elsewhere. That being said, I am still deeply influenced by my Quaker background. I like being contemplative, I hate creeds, and I don't have any use for sacraments. And yet, I decided that it was better to try other forms of connecting with God than with just standing in the wasteland and not even heading to the sea.

11/25/2006 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mystical Seeker, thanks for your honesty. (Excuse me, Robin, for jumping in...)

Part of what you write reflects a concern that another Quaker blogger recently posted, and I don't know if Robin has seen it yet. It has to do with this part of the comment shared by Mystical Seeker:

And yet, I decided that it was better to try other forms of connecting with God than with just standing in the wasteland and not even heading to the sea.

(The other blogger relates "the wasteland not even heading to the sea" to the story of the [wasted] talents.)

I agree that Friends--at least unprogrammed, Liberal Friends--can be doing a better job of demonstrating and providing spiritual hospitality. Not all of us have that gift, but it seems to me that our meetings should be able to nurture it and call it forth from a few Friends...

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

11/27/2006 11:49 PM  
Blogger Gregg Koskela said...

This is a comment of contrition. I've not been a good friend, to leave this uncommented upon. Forgive me!

I did smile big when I read it. And I wouldn't say I've been too busy with more important things, I would just say that I have been too busy, and trying to find some space and some margin.

Yes, I think all LOTR fans start to see our world through Middle Earth's lens. But that's because Tolkien put our world-spiritual and visible-into Middle Earth. We're simply seeing what he put there.

May you find God's grace surrounding you today, my friend. You are still one of God's gifts to me.

11/28/2006 12:33 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Mystical seeker - if you decide to give SFMM another try - I hope you'll say hi! I know that our Meeting has gotten friendlier in the last ten years as we've settled into our new home (Were you here during the remodeling/ construction? Not our finest hour for welcoming new people!) We've put some thought into how to engage with new people and we've had some luck with folks who have come recently. But we still fall short for some people, I'm sure. If you come by and I'm not there for some reason, leave me a comment to tell me if it's any different than when you were here before. It'd be a good test.

But if you're ready for something different - then the religious pluralist in me says that's fine. I believe that many rivers lead to the sea.

Liz, feel free to jump in any time. Mi blog es su blog.

Gregg, I'm sorry to pressure you into commenting here. Your friendship has been a great gift to me and I don't want to impose when you need time and space. I am a strong supporter of margins. But it is also true that I thought of you when this came to me in meeting for worship last week.

Like any LOTR fan, I have been thinking about which character(s) I am like. Alas, there are few female characters. I suspect I am more like the hobbits than like Eowyn or Arwen.

11/28/2006 8:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home