When I was a child, there was a playground that all my friends went to after school. I recall the first time I set out to walk there and discovered a long winding stream that ran between my house and the playground. I watched as some of the older kids leapt over the narrow stream and hurried on to play with the others. I made a valiant effort to jump over the water myself, and was rewarded with soaked shoes and pantlegs. As I would find out later that evening, my mother found this unacceptable. So, for the next week, I sat by the stream and watched the children playing across the way. Oh, how I wished the stream would magically dry up, or that I would suddenly be granted the ability to fly for just 5 seconds!
One day, as I lay on the grassy bank listening to the soft sounds of the running brook, the sweet sunshine warming my face, I forgot about the children playing on the other side. For a brief few minutes, the water was a source of tranquility, rather than anguish. For some reason, I decided to take a walk alongside the stream to explore the area. And I was so glad I did! Not thirty feet from where I had sat day after day fuming at the watery barrier, I made a most delightful discovery. There in perfect alignment were three large stones laid out just right to create a bridge for a little 8-year-old boy to step across to the other side of the stream. In a matter of seconds, I indeed stood on the other side, and with a quick wipe of my feet on the grass, I skipped off to the playground with dry clothes and a big smile.
Now, as an adult, I've discovered that life, in many respects, is not so different from that childhood experience. I still encounter obstacles on a regular basis that frustrate and discourage me, keeping me from the idyllic life that I so desire. Of course, I am still unable to wish the adversities away, and fantasies of conquering these challenges through magical means are never fulfilled. But with a bit of maturing and seasoning over the years, I have learned something kind of wonderful. If I sit with the problem quietly, explore my internal and external resources, and commit myself to thoughtful prayer, I frequently make a most delightful discovery. Somewhere nearby, often right in front of me, are the stones in the stream that God has laid out to help me.
I've come to understand that it is not His way to eliminate obstacles at our bidding, nor to provide us with fanciful ways to avert challenges. I think God puts the needed resources at our disposal -- some lie within (e.g., a strong faith), some without (e.g., a caring friend). To this day, there are difficult circumstances that make me feel like that discouraged little boy at the water's edge. Like him, I am at times inclined to whine, complain, and vent my frustration. It is in those moments I remind myself that the stones in the stream are out there somewhere, and God wants me to find them – and that's what I try to do.
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