Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Jesus will carry us across the river

By LORRAINE V. Murray, Commentary | Published May 22, 2024

Two monks were going on a journey together. They came to a river with a strong current and saw a beautiful woman standing there. She asked them to help her cross the river. The monks hesitated at first, because they had taken vows to never touch a woman. Then, without saying a word, the older monk carried the woman across the river and left her gently on the bank.  

The younger monk was shocked but said nothing. The two continued on their journey without talking, and three hours later, the younger monk couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “We’re not permitted to touch women, so how could you carry that woman on your shoulders?” The other monk calmly replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?” 

The tale invites us to reflect on the baggage we’re carrying in our hearts. What is the old stuff that keeps returning to haunt us? It could be a cruel word someone said to us last week or a romantic rejection from years ago. Perhaps a friend disappointed us. Perhaps we were overlooked at work when it came time for promotions.  

We can’t control the thoughts that flash through our minds, but we choose whether to dwell on them or not. Memories may come tearing out of our heart and thunder across our consciousness. We may feel ourselves getting angry or resentful or sad. We get trapped in the past like a web and can’t extricate ourselves.  

Perhaps we imagine what we might have said, what we should have done. As the minutes tick by, we become so enmeshed in the past, we become blind to the present. We can also get trapped in the future, when we dwell on an upcoming event.   

Birds tweet, train whistles blow, rain pelts the window, but we miss all of it because we’re sifting through our thoughts. Maybe we’re sitting at church in total silence, but war is raging within. Maybe we’re taking a walk on a calm morning, but a hurricane is brewing inside.   

I once was terrified of flying. Weeks before a trip, the thoughts would start haunting me, the famous “What ifs?” I imagined every possible disaster until the day finally came and I entered the plane, trembling in fear. Every squeak and rattle of the plane portended doom. Why were all these other people laughing and talking and eating pretzels, when we were surely going to crash at any moment?  

The more I flew, the more I realized there was an excellent chance of surviving the trip. Finally, the day came when I actually enjoyed looking out the window at the clouds. Truth be told, I still say a prayer during take-off and landing, and wonder how many other passengers are silently doing the same. But I no longer dwell on negative thoughts.  

The apostles panicked when their fishing boat encountered a storm. Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat, and they woke him up in terror. “Lord, save us, we will drown!” He chided them about their lack of faith. Although he wasn’t at the helm, he was still in control of the boat.  

He can calm the storms that sometimes threaten to overtake our thoughts. He can free us, whether we’re entangled in a web of fears about the future or trapped in regrets about the past. 

He is the captain of the boat, the pilot in the plane, the conductor on the train. He can help us carry our burdens and leave them on the other side of the river. 

Lorraine is the author of eight books, including three church mysteries, available at Artwork is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef.