Gather by the River, and Touch the Hand of God

By:  Jana Greene

A lifetime ago, I had a dream.

There stretched before me, under a lavender sky,  a wide ribbon of water.  I approach it alone at first, barefoot and wearing a robe of opalescent  linen.  As I draw closer to the river, others come, too.  Feeling a soft tug at each of my sleeves, I know by instinct that my children are by my side and I clasp their hands.  I look down at two heads shining blonde in the bright moonlight, their gazes focused forward.

The river is mighty, but sounds like a tinkling brook of a million bells.  I see multitudes of people at the river’s edge and more spilling from the hilltops beyond and through green valleys – all resplendent in the whitest garments.  I instantly understand  that some had been blind in earlier times, for their eyes took in more than mine.  For others, the river bells were the first sound to befall their ears.  Some were skipping, as though they had never walked before.  Everyone is in a slow rush to get to the water.

Everyone is  at such peace.

My children were pulling me now, their voices joined in with an ancient song that grew with the masses, as if known by instinct.  Nothing I’d ever heard compared with this music, composed by angels.

Across the river!  There is my Papa!  My beloved grandfather’s eyes were clear of the depression he carried when I was young.  And next to him was my grandmother, healthy and alive!  Oh how I want to run to her and bury my face in the familiar softness of her shoulder.  And my mother, there, too…ever beautiful, now serene.  And all the ones I loved so much – who struggled with all kinds of issues and hurts – are here, with whole minds for their bodies, whole spirits for their journey to the river’s edge.

One by one we gather until there are too many to count.

Closer, closer to the river now, I am desperate for the water. I wade in until my tunic is wet to the waist.  The current is cool and swift, but I am not moved by it.

I absolutely must reach Jesus.  I know He is here.

See?  There He is – holding out His arms to me!  There are so many, many people here, but He is waiting to embrace me!  When I can no longer touch the soft sand of the river bed with my feet, the current starts to move me gently toward Him, and the music surrounds me – fills me –clearer and more harmonious than anything I’ve ever heard, and I am almost close enough to reach the Living God.

But, wait.  I can’t see His face.  Why can’t I see His face?

With all my might, I try to hurl myself sideways against the water that now rushes.  But my strength is not enough and I fall just short of brushing His fingertips with mine.  My tunic is suddenly so heavy.  Isn’t this the living water?  Why is it so heavy, then?   Within moments, it is burdensome, like swimming in jelly.

Your face, Lord….I am seeking your face now!

And then I wake with a sudden, terrifying start in the darkness of my bedroom.  I am panting with suffocation, and my arms ache with having been outstretched in my sleep.  Heart racing-skipping randomly like a rabbit in the brush-  body drenched in a detoxifying sweat.  The beautiful  music has been replaced by an eerie sobbing – my own – and though it is pitch-dark, I close my eyes as hard as I can, grief-stricken that I am back in my heavy, wet, hurting body.

It is day three of this thing called sobriety, and I almost touched the hand of God.