Writing on a Monday morning, I find myself sitting on a rolled-up blanket beside the Eno River near Hillsboro, North Carolina, tagging along with my wife’s art group.
They’re doing plein air painting; I’m using a very weak signal from my cell phone to access Campbell University’s online portal to grade papers from my “Writing for Christian Leaders” class.
The sounds of the river tumbling over a small rapid remind me that the river goes on and on, and so does life.
A sign some 15 to 20 feet above the water level indicates how high the water rose during Hurricane Fran in 1996, and that reminds me that the river has highs and lows, but it goes on.
Trees lining the riverbank drop their leaves in splashes of color in their seasonal cycle, and I watch them float down the river, which goes on and on.
Can you guess where this might be going?
I happily admit to being among those caught up in a celebrative mood this past Saturday when it became clear that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had been declared president- and vice president-elect. It gave me hope that America’s time in the shadows of muscular isolationism, racism and wealth-ism might be fading.
At the same time, I’m aware that nearly half of the American electorate voted to maintain the falsehood-fueled status quo that made our strong nation a laughingstock in the wider world. The discontent that fueled Donald Trump’s populist rise to power is still present.
But on whatever side of the divide we stand, the river – and life – goes on. My prayer is that all Americans will give the new administration a chance to chart a healing and constructive course for all of us, working toward building a sense of solidarity despite our lack of unity.
Either way, the river will run on.
I rejoiced as well to hear early results from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trials, indicating that it could be more than 90% effective. My elation is not just because I’m in that trial and have received the vaccine.
Pfizer’s apparent success brings hope that other vaccine candidates will also be effective. Realistically, we face what could be another year of masking and social distancing before the vaccines can be approved and widely distributed, but with an administration that takes the pandemic seriously, I’m confident that the virus will be defeated.
When that time comes, life will still be different. Many jobs that transitioned to working from home will never return to an office. Many businesses that could not survive the pandemic will not be resurrected. Schools may never look quite the same.
But the river goes on. Life goes on. New businesses will begin. The government, hopefully, will help. More people will go back to work. We’ll see each other’s smiles again, we’ll hug again, and we’ll sit together and sing again.
The river may rise and fall, but it runs on and on.
And so will we.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.