Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. The rhythmic back and forth of a feather gliding down from up above is somehow soothing. Sunlight catches its tail on an upswing giving it a warm, golden hue. My nose tickles just imagining the touch of the feather. I continue to lie still on my back, my face barely clearing the surface. The cool flow of the water is oddly comforting in its consistency and the hard rocks embrace my back in a way that keeps my body elevated just enough to survive the current. I can see that the sun is shining above the covering but inside it is rather dim. I long to reach out for the feather, to twirl it between my fingers and feel its dainty softness. I long for the life to which it attests, the blood and breath and warmth of something living.
Until the floating feather, I almost forgot where I was. Caught up in the constant ache of the cold, rushing water, I often close my eyes and pretend to be somewhere else. Relief floods my mind as I remember why I am still here and why the water has not overtaken me. I remember why the sun does not scorch my face and why the wind of the storms does not carry me away. That feather is just one of a thousand which form a canopy over my body, a beautiful, white shield reaching from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Layers and layers of soft, billowy feathers create a strong wing just far enough above my body to be out of my reach. I long to stroke the feathers in a tender way that shows my gratitude, a caress to say thank you for years and years of protection.
The sound of rushing water has been so constant in my ears that it takes me a while to realize what I hear now is just leftover ringing. I am slow to awake to the reality that I can feel the full warmth of the sun on my body. I squint my eyes in protection as I try to take in the beauty that is all around me. It suddenly occurs to me that the wing that was just above my head is gone, but strangely I do not feel vulnerable. I can feel the weight of the water trying desperately to cling to my body as I stand up for the first time, droplets of water falling from my eyelashes as I emerge at the bank. There is a golden glow in my reflection that catches my breath and I shiver more out of amazement and relief than out of coldness.
It is there, on the muddy bank, where I first see the wings, so majestic and full of glory with a million billowy feathers gently blowing in the breeze. He calls me to Him with only a glance and I run with wild abandon. I fold into those wings in sheer and breathless adoration. I fit perfectly, like my body has already worn in a cozy spot, all the right feathers crinkling in just a way that the wing is formed to my curves. I am finally here and I know I can finally rest. It is over.
We have all visited this river. We have lain on the rocks and held our breath as the water washed over us. Like gold in the fire of purification, our true identity is fought for and forged. For some of us, life feels like we are always here, right smack dab in the middle of Refinement, in the deep end of the River of Cleansing where each time we emerge on the bank a little more pure, a little more changed and a little more as God intends. This privilege of sanctification is the outpouring of His faithfulness. God promises that He will always finish the work he begins in us. And He also promises that He is our total protection and refuge as we go through this process.
But one day we will be done. There will be no more river and no more refinement. We will be as blindingly golden as the streets of heaven! We will be clean, whole and free of the impurities that plague us in this life. Until that day, we live out this cleansing ritual under the constant protection of His wings. No matter how He chooses to make us more like Him, no matter what He allows in our lives, we can rest in knowing there is a buffer of feathers around us. He is always in control. He never misses a thing. And He will never waste our pain. So lay back and nestle down in the comfort of His wings. Find your refuge in Him, as you are refined as the purest of gold.
“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4
“But He knows the way I take when He has tried me I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:10