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The Swamp

The Swamp

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Published by Steve Slotemaker
The Swamp is my word picture for Grace & Chloe Slotemaker of grief.
The Swamp is my word picture for Grace & Chloe Slotemaker of grief.

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Published by: Steve Slotemaker on Feb 21, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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06/16/2009

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The Swamp

I was forced, unexpectedly, to parachute for the first time from a helicopter. As I was floating in the uncertain air my sensory organs took in the environment. Muggy air, brown filthy swamp water with trees both dead and alive scattered intermittently throughout the swamp; bugs everywhere. Everything I could see I didn’t want to experience. I didn’t want to be here, I wanted to be home. But as I was cascading down to the swamp I realized quickly that I wouldn’t be home soon, maybe never. I landed in the middle of the swamp. There would be no short way out to dry solid ground. All I could do was cry. Survival was secondary to the shock of reality. After gaining some semblance of composure, my initial assessment was in order to survive, I needed to go through the swamp. I couldn’t survive by sitting still, the corroding forces of the swamp water and the overwhelming heat would do me in. Terra firma was my objective; ground outside the swamp my aim. Quickly towards my objective I headed. Due east seemed the quickest and easiest route, plenty of live trees to seek shelter in. Never having been in a swamp before, I proceeded to walk in the knee deep blend of water and mud. Some steps were greeted with certainty underfoot like sand left firm from the outgoing tide. Other steps were received seemingly by quicksand which yielded under my weight and pulled down the very object I was hoping it would support. Yet other steps were accepted into what must have been underwater chasms. What was once perceived as knee deep water immediately and unexpectedly had a depth that out measured me. Never did I know for certain what the next step would result in. Recent experience often biased my thoughts and emotions. I started to realize that not only what was visible to my eye was a formidable undertaking, but the invisible below the swamp water was also menacing. Confident firm steps would string together. This allowed my focus to shift from the uncertainty of below to the beautiful blue skies above. God was in the sky looking down, orchestrating my successful journey, refining me with this struggle. However that same glorious clear sky, the opposite of the brown swamp water, also brought about struggle. The sun unfiltered by clouds blistered and baked my skin. Why has God placed me here? What is His plan? Where can I find comfort, shelter, meaning when the nature He created and where He placed me is overwhelming me? A live tree was yards away. Moving towards that tree for shelter, temporary relief from the swamp water, and shade from direct sun provided hope of rest in its limbs. The

frustrating journey to the tree accomplished, I climbed its limbs and rested my body and mind for a time. Rest, hardly the best word to describe the state I was in. Lost in a swamp, alone in a tree, "resting" precariously on a limb. In this tree I prayed. "Dear God, you are loving, powerful, a designer, a destroyer; where do you want me to go from here? What do you want to accomplish through me? How will you guide me out of this swamp of grief? Or, will you abandon me when I feel like I need you most? Imbue me with your presence, grant me patience, determination, and trust. For it is you, Lord Jesus, that will keep me from being alone in this swamp; it is you that will be my plenty in this time of apparent vacancy." As with most prayers, I fell asleep without completing all I set out to share and plead for from my God. Falling from the limb into the swamp water shot me awake, alone in body in this swamp but no longer feeling alone in spirit. From this morning on I am determined to pass through this swamp, to lean into the challenge that the putrid brown water, the scorching hot sun, and the nasty and often unseen reptiles mount against me. I am cloaked with His protection. I am overseen by the Great Overseer. My steps will continue to be uncertain to me, challenged by the unpredictability of the swamp, but my confidence is in the fact that God knows each step before I take them. My comfort is in the close presence He provides when I am in communion with Him. I need to keep Him close for me, but also for the two girls I am carrying through this swamp with me. Steve Slotemaker 12 December 2008

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