'We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.' C.S. Lewis.
We stood on the bank of the river watching the broad, steady barge move slowly toward us. Then, at the crucial moment, I grabbed the children's hands and yelled, "JUMP!" And we made it. We were no longer where we had been, exposed and alone. We were moving forward to somewhere new, dry and afloat. All shall be well.
For a while, we traveled up the river recovering. Admiring the view, enjoying the new safety. The children grieved all that had been left behind, but I knew this was our rescue barge, our onward movement, God's provision.
Then the river started to narrow. (There was a weir off to the right which momentarily looked like an alternative only if you didn't know what a weir does.) The river narrowed and narrowed until we entered a lock.
Initially the lack of movement was unremarkable. Only inches separated us from the sides. We were still on the barge, we were still out of danger. However, when it became clear there was a barrier obstructing further progress, our heads turned back to see whether we could reverse.
Without our noticing, the barrier behind us had slowly closed too. There was no turning back.
"Don't panic," I thought. "This was the right choice, the only choice. God has a plan, just wait." I comforted the children.
But it was difficult to wait with nowhere to go stuck on a barge in a lock. The children were restless, out of their element, distressed. They wanted to jump off, run away down the bank, make up another barge from their own imagination. I felt helpless. Failing.
And this was all before the water level began to drop. I didn't notice it at first, being almost imperceptible. But slowly I could see less of the open fields and woods beyond the river. My view was increasingly locked into the reality of the barge, the nearness of the sides, the height of the walls. How tiny our barge seemed now, yet how unwieldy and too large for this confined space.
The walls got higher. No way forward, no way back.
"God, what are you doing?” I have cried. “This must be right but how can it be right? Look at us! This is worse than before! Isn't it? We are truly STUCK! Will we be stuck here forever? Unmoving? Trapped? Have I, in fact, been wrong all along? This was never, in fact, your barge? Never your way?"
I had to find quiet in order to think. And in quiet, my mind turned to the purpose of a lock. Why do the barriers close? To allow the boat - slowly, slowly - to move from one level of the river to a deeper, lower one and so be able to move ahead. You can't tell what's happening if you don't know how a lock works. It looks like the barge has got "locked"in and, worse, is now sinking.
BUT. There is a plan behind every lock. A purpose. A necessity to its existence. If the boat is to go further on its journey, something has to happen to allow for the change in water level to make it possible to proceed. The barrier closes slowly behind the barge, and the one in front of it only opens very slowly once the back one is fully shut.
Wait for it....
Wait for it....