When you are born you are given the key to the world. Your life is limited in possibility only by your own imagination and fears.
That may very well be one of the most arrogant things I have ever said. I know full well, first-hand that many are born into this life already behind the eight ball. I know, because I have friends who suffer mental illness, poverty and homelessness. It's hard to imagine the limitless possibilities of this life when your daily life is a struggle.
I know this.
The thing is that I am not talking about owning a Porsche or a ski chalet in France. I am not talking about money, the acquiring of objects, the taking of fabulous vacations, the eating in great restaurants. I am talking about love.
I once heard a man describe what he called the river of money. "There is a river of money that flows through this world," he said, "and the closer you get to it ..."
I don't remember what he said after that, but I assume what he meant was that if you position your life close enough to that river, you get will get rich. It seemed to have worked for him; he had a lot of money and a lot of free time.
I have thought a lot about that statement since I heard it many years ago, and I would like to counterbalance that idea with my own sense of the river that flows through this world.
I believe that there is a river called God that flows through this world, and the closer you position your life to that river, the more satisfying and rich your life will be.
Not because God is in the business of granting wishes or making dreams come true. God isn't giving away laptops or plane tickets to Switzerland. God seems to have one thought in mind for you: that your life be filled with love. Of each other and of service to this world.
This past week the thing happened that we all talk about. A wealthy man I knew died, suddenly, tragically, well before he should have died. I was in Montana when I heard the news. Everyone wondered, when I went there, about the wildfires. It turned out that it was a terrible crash and fire back home that killed one of the most beautiful humans I have ever had the blessing to know.
The church was packed for his funeral. It's a very big church, the one I went to for most of my life growing up in Saratoga. It was filled with people who admired the man who died, people who had worked for and with him, and with friends and family. But the palpable weight of the collective grief within those wall was matched, indeed surpassed, by love. The story of his life, in the end, was not a story of his accomplishments, his real estate holdings, the trips he took. It was obvious that he had tapped in, in his lifetime, to the river of money, but he knew the larger truth of life: none of that ultimately matters. He was deeply, with his whole heart, devoted to his family, and the words shared by his four daughters and his brother reflected that truth.
He knew. He knew about the river of God. The river of love. Where families swim together and talk to each other, a lot. Where bonds are made and kept and the well-being of everyone else comes before your desires for yourself.
The key to the world is the gift you are given at birth. This world is here so we can love it and care for it; admire and revere it. There may be a river of money flowing through it; there probably is, but I don't recommend that you launch your pontoon there. Search instead for the wider, deeper, clearer river of God that flows through your very veins, out of you and toward those you love. Take them with you in your days, hold their dreams and their hearts in a safe place; put them first.
The river of life, the river of God will most likely take you places you don't want to go or you never planned to go, and that's OK. It's actually really OK. Life vests are optional, hand-holding mandatory. Let go of your misguided dream of having things, of fame or fortune, and let the deep and beautiful river of God, of life, take you where you were meant to go all along. Toward people, toward caring, toward presence, accountability, kindness, service, devotion, love.
In the end you will understand that it was the only river that truly mattered. Amen.