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Prayer | Dr. Leighton Ford (Mentoring)

River Speak

February 17, 2015

I walked this river many
times before,
but never quite so far
or quite so deep.

I’ve followed down its
darkened banks
this quiet, hidden, winding
so close to tourist traffic
yet so far

But I had never listened for
the river’s voice.

Today, I heard the river speak.

I took along a m an,
a young, black man
to show the river to him
and the way.
But he showed me to see the way
and how to let
the river speak.

With him I went down
than I’d ever gone before.
A bridge was there I’d
never seen, or
never found, or
was not there
last year.
Across it was another
side, another
path that went down
where I’d never been
and showed me things
I’d never seen.

He showed me tenderness.
reached out an unselfconscious
youthful arm
that touched my shoulder
and my soul.
I wondered for a moment
what would a watcher
think who saw a
young man hug
an old man
in the woods?
It was a holy touch.

He showed me woundedness.
Pulling up a pant’s leg
he let me see on
one dark limb
the foot-long scarry flesh
where doctors poured
the poison to kill
a carcinoma, but left
him one bone short,
with tendons knitted by a stapled knot.
In his Jacob’s twisted beauty
I saw the healing
hand of God.

He showed me artfulness.
below cascades we
tried to frame a view
we’d like to paint.
“We’d want” I said, “the
rocks, the yellows and the
greens, the bridge, the falls.”
“If it were me,” he said,
“I’d let myself fall down
the bank, be bruised
a bit, and at the bottom
see what I would see.”

He showed me guidedness.
Siddhartha, so he said.
And this I did not know,
after many years
of plying his trade
as a boatsman learned
to listen to the river.

And so, at last, we found a ledge
beneath the bridge and
sat a while and listened
to the white noise
of falling sheets
to rushing hiss
on polished rocks
to liquid grunts like
bullfrogs in the hollows
as the river spoke.

And – this is what it said –
“God started me before you came
this way.
He’ll keep me going past your
longest day.
I’ll shape the earth yet deeper
to the falls.
I take my playful course
because He calls.”

Like that the river spoke.

I heard my call
To walk the river as He
makes it flow
to take along those hearts
Who want to go
and with them find paths
I long to know.

June, 1996

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