There are some things that will always make me feel like a kid...but none more so than the smell of nature and questionable water content, the sounds of that same questionable water trickling over rocks and around logs and twigs, and the sight of dozens of children laughing and running in sheer bliss.
In fact, many of my favorite, fondest childhood memories revolve around these exact sights, smells and sounds: the makings of a perfect day at “the creek.”
More times than it’s possible to recall with accuracy, I have had my feet, my legs, sometimes my whole body, submerged in creek water. Throughout my childhood it was the pastime of choice. On family camping trips we would spend at least one whole day building a dam in the nearest creek, wading along the banks collecting rocks, and snacking in the sun while our clothes dried.
On vacations to visit our cousins, we would trek down to the nearest running water source, shed our shoes, and spend hours trying to get as deep into the water as we could without actually getting our clothes wet.
It’s been years since I indulged in this beloved activity, but over the Fourth of July weekend, I joined my family for a day of reflection, a day of sunburns and bug bites, a day of laughter and dirty, dirty feet…a day at the creek.
It took us a while to find just the right spot, which really means it took us a while to get down the bank from the road where we parked. Somehow my memories of hiking to the creek as a kid do not include carrying a diaper bag, a camera, and a pile of towels. I do remember the thorns that scratched my legs, and, in case you are wondering, those thorns are still there, whatever creek you happen to visit.
The hill was steep, and more than one of the 12 children slid rather than climbed down it. There were a few tears, more than a few screams, but mostly there was laughter.
We reached the water’s edge and dropped out gear with fanfare. A blanket was spread, bug spray applied (another thing I don’t remember having as a child, but which seems quite significant as a mom) and lectures were given about how far was too far for any child to venture on their own.
As I sat on the bank watching my children play, I couldn’t help noticing that many things had changed.
The faces, for one thing. Mine was older…a lot older.
My brother was taller than everyone else, and my little sisters didn’t need me to hold their hands anymore.
The surrounding children weren’t the Perry’s, our beloved cousins and favorite creek companions. Now some of the children were my own, and the others were my nieces and nephews. But it seemed the Perrys were with us in spirit, as more than once a voice rang out “Remember when we were with the Perrys and…” there are so many choices for how to fill in the blank, and they all left us with a smile today.
Just as quickly as I recognized the changes since the last time I went wading in a creek, I also saw the things that will never change.
A daddy will always jump into deeper water than he planned to if his child is too tired to swim to the edge.
A brother will always try to splash his sisters, despite, or maybe because of, how strongly the sisters protest getting their hair wet.
The bugs will always bite, and the kids will never care.
Watermelon tastes much better when it’s cut up on a big flat rock and served to dirty hands.
Boys will never, ever stop trying to shove girls into the water from behind.
The Lord spoke to me today, in the midst of the sweating, laughing, exploring, snacking, and hiking. His spirit whispered to my heart, and even over the all the clamoring and squealing, I heard Him.
“Do you see how many things are different?” He wasn’t talking about the creek.
“Do you see that I am always the same? That I am always here? Even in the change…I am with you, I am the same.”
It had been years since I had been to a creek, but it hadn’t changed. My parents are grandparents now, but they are still the best Mom and Dad any kids could ask for. Daniel has been taller than me for years, but he is still my little brother. Sarah and Rachel are all grown up, but I will still catch them if they slip. And Joy…Joy has changed most of all, and yet she is still the same too. She is worshiping Jesus, like she did her whole life, only now it’s face to face.
The next time I see a creek, I will smile at all my memories of the Perrys, and I will remind my kids of today, and the fun that we had. But I will also hear His voice in the trickling water, I will see His hand in the rocks and trees.
Things have changed. The course of my life looks different than any place I have ever been before…
but my fortress,
the ROCK OF AGES,
I SEE THAT HE IS THE SAME.