Metaphorically, crossing the river symbolizes a big change: change of scenery, a different perspective, even death. It embodies all things that come with being on the other side. River can act as a barricade, a natural borderline that divides provinces, a protection to keep the enemies at bay, a pathway that leads one to the destination. It means so many things, but for me, personally, river has always meant an object of longing, an expression of my deep-seated desire of going somewhere, always changing, always flowing, always arriving and leaving at the same time. It meant never staying in one place, being a seeker, and simply being on the other side of… this.
But river also provokes fear and anxiety in me. It’s the fear of the unknown. How can I guarantee that my life on the other side will be better than being on this side? And the process of crossing is so much work. It costs money, it costs the people you know and love, but most of all, it costs your sense of stability. It is a risky behavior and I was never the type that welcomed challenges whole-heartedly. So that first summer after moving back from Hawaii, my heart was at war because I felt a sense of call to cross the river to move to Maryland and deep fear and anxiety against the change that was about to happen once again. I mean, I had just moved back from Hawaii and was left shattered after my broken dream of publishing my hard-worked book I finished out in Hawaii. I had to keep pushing and moving forward, but I did not feel ready. I did not have the strength to cross the river yet.
It was one of those days I was quietly fighting my inner battle. I faced the river, a boat at the dock with a departure date set -my sister was visiting my parents that summer from Maryland-, a strong call I felt that urged me to go to Maryland with her. But I lacked one thing: a specific purpose for moving there. I never desired to live in Maryland. The idea of living in Maryland never occurred or appealed to me. But as fate would have it, I came across the Bible verse that gave me the final push into the river I was about to cross. I was waiting in my sister’s van somewhere on the country road of Tennessee. My sister’s Bible placed on the arm rest came into my view. I grabbed it, opened the page marked with a piece of folded paper. I saw where my sister had highlighted and started reading it. My heart almost stopped. It read:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
And so without thinking twice, I hopped on my sister’s van and moved to Maryland. Just like that. I didn’t have much possession so it was an easy thing to do. The hardest part was to decide whether to go or not. Once in Maryland, I went through it all over again. The typical process of settling down in a new place. A new job, a new church, new friends, and new routines. This time, however, for the first time since I left my native country, I was joined with my family. Soon, my parents followed my path and moved to Maryland. It was here that I would meet my future husband, start a family, and move to Virginia, my next destination.
Last weekend, I went to Shenandoah river with my sister’s family. We dipped our hot bodies in the cool river, and spent the afternoon in the relaxing setting surrounded by Blue Ridge Mountain. My toddler quickly got tired after her many attempts of crossing the river. I dried ourselves to prepare her for her nap. As I held her close and walked around singing lullabies to lull her to sleep, I could see my family playing in the water, splashing, running, chasing, and dipping. After all that we went through, here we are, together. In the same river, feeling the same current, cocooned by the warm mountain, being caressed by the cool summer breeze in the country. It was perfect. It was a wonderful sight. Perhaps, there will be more rivers for us to cross. I do not know how much longer we will have each other’s company this close. My mind was completely filled with the verse God showed me on that day in my sister’s van. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
So this was what God was promising me that day, I thought as I was watching the prophesy unfolding right there in front of my eyes. I had nothing to fear after all. All the deep waters that almost killed me and destroyed me have found their meanings and I made peace with my past. I felt invincible as if nothing could never harm me ever again, and if that call of crossing the river comes knocking on my heart once again, I would follow without any hesitation at all. I was thinking all these thoughts on that perfect summer day at the Shenandoah river.