Night on the Flint River: An Accidental Journey in Knowing God [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Roberta C. Bondi
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Our most profound experiences of God often come when we least expect them: in the moments of our lives when something outside the ordinary confronts us. What we learn in these moments -- about ourselves and about God -- can be learned in no other way.
These moments offer insight not otherwise available to us, gifts we would not otherwise receive, peace we would not otherwise know. In these accidental journeys with God -- these moments of greatest vulnerability -- we experience the rare glimpses of God's love and grace that remind us that every moment of our living and dying is embraced by God's presence and purpose. These moments shape our living and believing for the rest of our lives.
In this volume, Roberta Bondi reflects upon one such accidental journey with God and shows us how to pay attention to how God uses these moments for our good.
eBook Publisher: United Methodist Publishing House
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2002
The following is the story of an adventure that took place not too many years ago. Pam and I and our friend Jeff had gone out intending to take a short, simple, and relaxing Sunday afternoon canoe trip on the Flint River not very far from Atlanta. Nothing turned out as we expected, however, and before long we were in trouble. There had been a drought some time before, which had killed many trees. Almost as soon as we were in the water we found ourselves entangled among their dead trunks, roots, and branches that had fallen across the river. Having decided, in spite of the obvious, to push on in hope of finding that the water would be clear farther along, within hours we were in total darkness, the likes of which I, at least, had never known before. During the long hours till the dawn that followed, I truly believed that I was living out the last night of my life. This book recounts not just what happened to us on that October 18, but also something of my interior reflections as I stumbled along in the wet blackness with my two friends, expecting to die.
As for these reflections, I have learned from experience that when something happens to me that puts me in a place of danger, delight, beauty, loss, illness, accident, or pain that is as far from my ordinary experience as this night was, I need to pay attention, and to pay that attention in the presence of God. When I do, I learn things and receive gifts that I am generally aware I can learn and receive no other way. Make no mistake, however. I am not suggesting that God deliberately caused what occurred that night in order to teach me a lesson. It was our own stubborn refusal to turn back once it became obvious that the deadfalls in the Flint River were not going to go away that got us stranded. I do believe, however, that when something like this happens to any of us, if we are attentive and honest with ourselves, God is able to use these times that seem to set us so at the boundaries between life and death, mystery and the ordinary, to speak to us in ways that help us grow in love of God and neighbor.
At the same time, if we are talking about bone-jarring events and the long-term growth in love, paying attention while the crisis is taking place and remembering in detail what happened later in the presence of God in our prayer is only one part of what we need to do in order to make ourselves available to receive God's gifts.
For myself, I am aware that I also need to treat that first occasion not as an event that has taken place and is now over, but rather as the beginning point for the kind of reflection in the loving and challenging presence of God that will make it possible for me to bring the whole of myself -- mind, heart, experience, my awareness of my culture, my knowledge of the early church and its life and theology, which I study and teach, and scripture -- into transforming conversation with the original happening. This is not fast work. It often takes a very long time, sometimes even years, and it is frequently painful; but when it comes to transformation into love of God and neighbor, I have found it is always worth the patient and continued effort.
It is hardly surprising, if I consider our common identity in Christ, as well as our common calling to growth in love, that though sometimes this work must be private, more often than not, I usually benefit greatly from sharing this conversation with Christian friends, as I also benefit from their sharing equivalent conversations with me. Certainly, such shared talk in turn helps all of us as the body of Christ truly to encounter our loving God as well as to think more clearly and honestly about who we actually are both individually and as God's people.
It is in this spirit and with these intentions, at any rate, that I offer to you my own reflections around that night with God and my friends on the Flint River three years ago. I hope you may use the record of this conversation to spark your own thoughts and prayers around your experiences, metaphorically speaking, of the wilderness through which sooner or later all of us must go.
Here, before I begin, I want to thank some people who made this project possible.
To begin, there is my friend Pam Couture, who was with me that night. She has moved out of Atlanta, and I miss dreadfully her fun, her intelligence, and her general enthusiasm for life. I also want to thank our other companion that October 18, Jeff Smith, for his stoic patience in the face of his injury.
I also particularly want to thank Candler School of Theology, where I teach, for giving me a study leave in which to write this book.
Halfway through the composition of Night on the Flint River, as I was coming down the hill from our neighbors' house during a severe rainstorm, I fell on some rocks and shattered my ankle. Here, I want to express my gratitude to my friends who dragged me through the wilderness of a week in the hospital, surgery, three and a half months in a cast, and the following months of physical therapy as I wrote. Maggie Kulyk, Melissa Walker, and Caroline Walker Bynum were particularly heroic, as was my mother, Mary Cowan.
At the same time, I can also hardly imagine getting through the event of my ankle so that I could write about the Flint River without my other friends who, among other things, brought food, visited, carted me around, talked on the phone and made me laugh. Some of these, but certainly not all, include Tere Canzoneri, Marian Dolan, Wendy Farley, Kim Frndak, Carl Hall, Elaine LaLonde, Bill and Gatra Mallard, Nicole Mills, Bobbi Patterson, Michelle Rubin, Don Saliers, Elaine Stenovsky, and Peggy West.
Most of all, however, I want to thank my husband, Richard, the person who, when I was laid up in the cast all those months, cared for me the most. He is always my best, most supportive, and most challenging conversation partner. I am very sorry that this adventure was the source of his flattened curls, hollow eyes, and lined forehead, which, for two whole weeks after my night on the Flint River, made him look as though he had an unspeakable migraine headache. May he never have to go through such a time again!
Copyright © 1999 by Abingdon Press