The last movie we saw before that devilish virus shut down all the theatres was “I Still Believe.” I’m still not sure if it was KJ Apa’s impish little grin or the story line that made me so emotional and bawl like a baby. Either way – the film is incredible and if you love love stories and/or Jesus, you should go see it.
But even better than the movie itself was one of it’s theme songs. It jumped off the screen right into my head’s hard drive and I can’t get it out of my mind. Not that I want it to.
The song’s message couldn’t be more relevant to the season of life we’re in. It’s as if God actually knew what He was doing when He released this movie (and this song) to usher our world into this perilous season of pain, suffering, uncertainty and division.
The song, a remix from the now disbanded group Delirious?, is called “Find Me At The River.” Rather than quote the whole thing, I’d LOVE for you to listen to it right here. Essentially, Martin Smith, who penned the lyrics, suggests when all hell breaks loose and it feels like Jesus has left the building, we should be found at the river of life – standing in the waters – eyes wide open for Jesus to show up.
Because, Jesus ALWAYS shows up.
The following phrases from the song are so profound I MUST quote them:
“We longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And bought our pretty crowns
But never paid the price….
We didn’t count on suffering
We didn’t count on pain
But if there are blessings in the valley
Then in the river I will wait”
OH MY GOSH!!! Do you see what I see??? This is AMERICA today!!! Martin Smith is speaking to America!
I truly believe that much of the world – whose people and cities and stories go back thousands of years before ours – are sitting back and listening to our country’s whining and just shaking their heads. Places like Iraq, where the Biblical Tigris and Euphrates flow through it’s center, or Syria, where the capital Damascus is mentioned in Genesis, or Egypt, where Joseph and Mary fled to with baby Jesus – yes, places like that are like our wise old great-great-great-grandfathers looking at the “barely formed” America and thinking, “Yes, America, you immature teenager you, there IS suffering in this life. You have known great prosperity but it will not and cannot last forever. Suffering will come and it will go. Again and again and again. And when you are an old grandfather like me, you will come to understand that you can’t only have the roses and never know the thorns. You can’t have pretty crowns and never pay the price. Hang in there, America. You’ll understand someday. You’ve been on waaaaaaay too long of an enchanted journey so reality is gonna bite. But it is in that reality where you will find that which really matters. And (spoiler alert) it isn’t in having the biggest military, or being the strongest and richest country in the world, or even the most powerful and influential. No, even if you were to lose all those things and all that status, you could still be a great nation – but only if God finds you in the river waiting there for Him.”
We may think America has fallen on “hard times” and we may think that things are ramping up to some kind of cataclysmic fall, but the truth is, we don’t even have a clue what hard times are. What we’re experiencing now? It’s barely a tickle.
We once heard a princess from Burundi speak at our church. It was her first visit to America so she asked if she could begin her learning and understanding of our country by seeing America’s poor people. Her host picked her up at Chicago O’Hare and knew exactly where to take her – the housing projects of Chicago’s south side. There are not many, if any, poorer huddled masses in America. When they arrived she asked, “What are those buildings?” Her host, thinking she must be devastated by the blown out windows, the fire scorched brick, the bullet holes peppering the exterior, said, “That is where the poor people live.”
Then she asked, “What are those structures out front?” Her host, again, thought she must be so sad to see garbage strewn everywhere in the dilapidated playground surrounded by broken fencing. His eyes met hers studying the basketball court with no hoop, two garbage dumpsters tipped upside down, four black men playing cards on a cardboard box while perched on buckets, and two separate gangs of fierce-looking youth hanging out in the perimeter, so he knowingly replied, “Yes, that is supposed to be the playground for the poor people’s children.”
Next she asked, “And how about those cars?” Again, her host, assuming her pain as she gazed at the line of rusted out, old model cars with barely any hubcaps, missing tires, blown out windows, and some even burned down to a crispy shell of metal, replied, “I know. It’s so sad. Those are the cars of the poor people.”
Again, she asked, “This is where the poor people live?”
“Yes,” her host said sadly.
Slowly, the princess looked over at her host and replied in her heavy Burundian accent, “America does not have poor people.”
Do you see it??? Do you see who America is to the rest of the world??? A spoiled teenager. We long to see the roses, but we’ve never felt the thorns. We want our pretty crowns but we don’t want to pay the price.
I believe the pandemic mayhem, the racial tension and political division resulting in a time of historically high hate levels is really just the thorns. We’ve had a lot of roses, America. Despite two world wars, a brutal Civil War and, according to most accounts, over 100 smaller wars, still, America has collectively never known the hardships experienced elsewhere in the world – we just haven’t been around long enough to know the same extent of suffering. We’ve never known hunger to the same extent as the developing world. We’ve never known the depth of violence, poverty, persecution, oppression or civil unrest as much of the world experiences as “everyday life.”
No matter how we come out of this mess, if we (believers in Christ) stay in the river and keep our eyes focused on Jesus and believe that He alone is all that matters, we will indeed find blessings in the valley. It does not matter if we come out on top. In fact, it’s often best if we don’t. If we are no longer the “greatest” or “most powerful” country it’s still going to be okay. If we lose our 401k’s or our homes or our cars or our jobs or even our health, we’re still going to be okay. Because, at the end of days, those are not the things that matter.
What matters in this crisis is that we live and love like Jesus. We must come together in unity, and bear one another’s burdens and open our homes to those who have lost theirs. We must feed those who can’t afford to buy food. We must reduce our spending so we can assist those who have lost jobs. We must reach out to those who are being forgotten, trampled, hurt, and afraid. We must rise above our differences and show love to everyone – even those who see the world differently than us. Scripture’s quite clear on what it is that we are to DO, both in times of plenty and in times of great need: love the weak, the poor, the oppressed, and defend the cause of the orphan, the widow, and the alien in our midst. And right up there with loving the Lord Our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is loving our neighbor as ourselves. That means ALL the neighbors.
It’s okay, America, if this is a hard season. This is only the thorns – and we haven’t experienced many. And it is only in the thorns that we discover the true beauty of the roses.
Perhaps America does not yet know just how beautiful the roses are and just how rich a crown she wears. Perhaps that is why she is now suffering.