I took the better part of a beautiful early Fall day this past week to enjoyed some much needed quiet time on one of my favorite “reserve” trout streams. I have a number of these that are hidden several miles off the main road in the Adirondack Mountains. I only fish them twice during any season, and have faithfully done so the past 25 years. This keeps them under-fished and highly productive whenever I go.
After several hours traveling north I parked my motorcycle and began the beautiful hike up one of these streams. As I walked the stream bank I failed to notice at first, the clear evidence that something had happened in my absence. There apparently had been a deluge of rain at one point in the past several weeks but at first glance things had changed very little. Everything still looked pretty normal, but what had been left behind was clearly there once I started to notice it. Even though the stream still seemed healthy, and the deep holes that have always held nice trout were still productive, things were definitely different. What’s interesting is that at first I didn’t see much of anything. The signs were so faint that I just never saw them. However, as I rounded a bend about a mile upstream, there it was, a massive silent witness to the power of what had really gone on.
I had not experienced the storm, but the clear evidence of what had happened was there. The magnitude of that storm was right in front of me and impossible to miss. Piled in the center of what had once been a deep hole was a huge tangled mass of logs, limbs, bark, rocks and brush. This massive mound of water-stripped twigs and weeds, earth and logs was so solid that it blocked the natural order of the stream and redirected it’s life-giving flow up alongside the opposite bank. The river was actually out of it’s ancient stream bed and eating away at the right bank of the river. It had already managed to unearth several big boulders, solid bedrock and a number of enormous, primal tree roots that had been buried for hundreds of years. Once I wrapped my mind around what I was seeing, the whole scene became both amazing and shocking to look at.
In that moment of awestruck wonder, something deep and profound hit me. I realized we are all like that river. Perhaps I should say we all have our own river of life, and the condition of the river took on new significance. What I mean is that we all have our own course marked out, and for the most part we just keep rolling along. However, on occasion, a massive storm comes along in life, and when it does we can be deeply impacted. So impacted in fact, that a pile of debris is left to clog up and redirect our reality. We think things are back to normal and life goes on just because we survived the storm. The fact is, nothing could be farther from the truth, and for the most part people are blind to the mess that is often left behind when trauma hits. The thing is, people we meet after our storm is over, don’t really know what happened to us. We look normal enough, and even act like there is no problem. However, even though the actual storm may be gone, it has left a pile of evidence behind, just like the log pile in my river, and we don’t realize it for the most part.
Until I rounded the corner, I had no idea it the log pile was there. Without realizing it, this is exactly what people run into whenever they are in contact with us, when we are in this condition. All seems good for a while, and the relationships are just flowing along until someone turns a corner and then “Wham!”.. they run right into a pile of storm debris, and things get messy. Have you been through a deep and troubling storm? Do you feel basically healthy and normal, but somehow always hit a place where things go so far and them stop or seem to fall apart? If that is your life pattern, it could be that the storms of life have left a tangled mess in the middle of your streambed and you just don’t see it.
The problem is that everyone who walks your bank runs into all the debris that has been left behind. The result, and real issue here, is that you now have the potential to leave your debris in everyone who gets near you, and that messes up their life as well. To stop this destructive pattern you need to face the issues in your own life. You have to admit that there was hurt, betrayal, wounding or pain. It’s a problem in you and it’s yours to own. Healthy people remain healthy no matter what others do. Believe it or not, the life of conflict you may have been living is not caused by others. It is caused by the storm debris that is still piled up inside of you. This debris brings up unhealthy emotions and thoughts, and they drive you to make bad decisions when others get close enough to unsettle your world. People are not the problem, they are only the catalyst that sets the problem in motion.
So where is the solution? Once you admit your have storm debris, it then needs to be cleared out. You may have to offer apologies, make phone calls, write letters, ask for forgiveness, see a counselor or even make restitution. Whatever will move you to a place of forgiving yourself and others, just do it. Next ask a trusted friend or mentor to speak honestly with you about what they see in your life. Don’t get offended or wounded by their truthfulness and candor. Such comments, when embraced and applied, will go a long way to making you emotionally healthy.
Finally begin each day with a fresh commitment to face yourself so you can make the needed changes. Ask God to support you along the way. He is always there to lend a helping hand. Do what you can and then let Him do all the rest. When you have this kind of partnership you are sure to win the prize. Last of all, no matter what, never give up! Just keep going no matter how many times you fail. You will see change if you persist, and that means you will be happy with the life you end up with. Best of all, so will everyone else who gets near you. Now go make a change and have a great day!