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In the Arroyo

by Tim O'Hearn

In Albuquerque we are blessed(?) with a number of arroyos. For those who are not totally familiar with the area or the Spanish of the American Southwest, an arroyo is essentially a large, natural ditch running from the mountains toward the desert. Presumably at one time they were stream beds, or channels for run-off water as it flows from melting snows toward the river valley. Usually they are dry and have steep sides. Therein lies the problem. When it rains in the mountains, the water flows rapidly down the arroyos. The skies can be clear where you are standing and the arroyo suddenly become a rushing stream. Many of the arroyos in Albuquerque have had their sides reinforced with concrete walls. Occasionally there are ladders so that people who are stupid enough to be in, or have to work in, the ditch can climb out in an emergency.

One such arroyo runs down the middle of the busiest freeway in the city. Normally it is relatively dry, although several arroyos flow into it. Currently the government is reconstructing one of the roads over the freeway and the arroyo. Part of this road work involves construction of a support pylon in the middle of the arroyo. To that end, they leave heavy construction equipment in the ditch at times, as it is difficult to remove it.

Recently we had a heavy rain in the hills. As I was driving home, in sunlight, I looked into the arroyo and saw a wall of water moving down the channel. Granted it was only about six to twelve inches deep, but it was moving at about twenty to thirty miles an hour. Anyone caught in its path would have been easily swept off his feet. As I proceeded up the freeway I began to see debris carried along this rapid river, including scaffolding from the construction work. Shortly thereafter I saw an amazing sight. A construction lift, essentially a small, heavy tractor with a lift platform on top of it, was floating down the arroyo! The rushing water had picked up this nearly one ton piece of metal and was bearing it to its doom.

Life, it occurs to me, can be like that flood in the arroyo. It can be overwhelming. We have obligations to meet, people to see, places to go, things to do. I don’t think this is unique to Americans, either. I have seen it in Japan and other places. Life seems to sweep us before it like a flood. We have trouble keeping our heads above water. We say we would like to slow down, but we can’t. We need someone to throw us a rope and pull us out of the channel. That is just what Jesus has done. He came down into the arroyo himself, and pulled us out. He tells us not to play in the ditch again.

No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the other and despise the one. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? (Matt 6:24-25)

Moses says that God carries our lives away “like a flood.” (Ps 90:5) He continues, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years; yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; for it is soon gone, and we fly away.” (Ps 90:10) What is Moses’ solution to the overwhelming flood? It is found in verse 12. “So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom comes from realizing there is a limit to the flood, an number that will end our days. Since we are not here on earth forever, wisdom teaches us that the eternal life is much more important. Whether we live to eighteen or eighty, the flood that sweeps us away here is nothing compared to the world to come.

Since we should look to the things of that world, we should spend more time in this world preparing for that one. “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)