The Styx, the Iowa, and the Jordan
A gentle reminder:
In Greek mythology the River Styx formed the boundary between the world of the living and the dead. The ferryman, Charon, would transport the deceased across the river, but only if they had a coin for the fare.
* * * * *
When we planned the schedule for our church’s women’s retreat, we set apart the hour before lunch on Sunday as time to spend alone. Some found a quiet place outside to pray, read, or reflect on the morning’s message.
Some women left the green lawn surrounding the lodge, chapel, and cabins to hike the walking trails. I slung my camera around my neck and followed a path that cut down the western face of a ravine, leading to the Iowa River.
The trail is too narrow for a vehicle, but wide enough for two to walk side by side. Fallen leaves carpeted the path, hiding stones. I stumbled on rocks occasionally, but if I had left the trail, I would surely have tripped on gnarled tree roots.
The path snaked farther downhill, in and out of shadow, in and out of light.
The breeze that had rattled dried foliage at the beginning of the trail was gone. I heard only the crunch of fallen leaves under my boots.
Large red “X”s plainly marked trees that were a danger and would need to be removed.
I stopped for a moment on the trail and remembered to look above me at the clear, azure sky and the brilliant, leafy canopy overhead.
I realized this path is like my life:
- wide enough to walk with the Lord, if I choose
Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way. Psalm 16:11 MSG
- there are obstacles I need to watch for
Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Psalm 86:11 MSG
- some days, some seasons will be dark, some filled with light
- there are dangers to be identified and removed
So—join the company of good men and women, keep your feet on the tried-and-true paths. Proverbs 2:20 MSG
- the deeper into the valley I go, the less I hear and see of outside distractions
- others have walked this way before me
- when I take time to stop and look up, I am refreshed by the beauty overhead and moved to worship
* * * * *
As I continued down the trail, I began to glimpse streaks of blue river between gray tree trunks. Golden leaves on lower canopy trees pointed the way. I felt compelled to hurry downhill to the river at the trail’s end, felt drawn to explore the “undiscovered country” on the other side.
I ached for that land for which I was made, for the final Home. I sympathize with Paul’s dilemma.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me . . . I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1:21-24
I heard the distant peal of bells, perhaps from a nearby church. It was noon, time to return to the lodge for our final meal of the retreat, time to turn from the “desire to depart and be with Christ,” time to return to the “fruitful labor” of our ordinary, everyday, beautiful lives.
I turned around and trudged up the hill to be welcomed by the warmth of the lodge and into the chatter in the dining room.
Someday I will return to the end of the trail, to the river Jordan that borders the eternal Promised Land. The bells will ring again, and the ferryman will come to port me to the other side.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24 NIV
I won’t need to take a coin to pay Charon to ferry me to the other side of the Styx. My way is already paid.
I will cross the river–from life, through death, and to life everlasting.
Paying in blood, you bought men and women,
Bought them back from all over the earth,
Bought them back for God. Rev. 5:9 MSG