The Encouragement of Ducks


What is that?

I squint into the darkness, trying to figure out what that thing bobbing in the river is.  I love the river at night.  Sometimes, when my soul is restless, the dog and I will walk down to the dock behind the municipal building and sit on the bench, watching the river gently moving in the moonlight.  There are no boats out at night. No fishermen.  No other wandering souls.  And I just sit there, and listen… listen to what God is saying to me in the breeze, in the rippling water, in the feeding fish and the quiet twinkling stars.

What is that?

Usually the dog notices animals before I do.  The instinct of an animal, just seeming to know when something else is nearby.  But he hasn’t thought twice about that thing out there, bobbing in the river.

Maybe its a piece of trash.  I don’t know why people want to throw their trash in the river.  It’s such a beautiful river.  More beautiful than most.  

Now the dog is watching it.

Maybe it is an animal after all.  A duck?  I’ve never seen a duck on the river this late at night.  Seems an odd time for them to feed.  And especially one all alone.

It’s not making any noise.  There is no quacking.  No indication that it is a living thing at all.  I get up and walk to the end of the dock, getting as close to whatever that thing bobbing in the river is.  The dog follows close behind.  He stands beside me, watching as intently as I am.  His ears pricked up.

It has to be an animal.  But what is it?

Just then it turns direction and lets out a loud quack.  It swims toward the near shore, quacking as it goes.  Three other ducks step into the water from the bank and swim toward the brave duck that had ventured out to determine the water was safe.

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Now four strong, the ducks swim, almost leisurely out toward the center of the river.  Suddenly, the one that had taken the lead turns and swims away from his friends and comes in my direction.  A tentative quack comes not from the brave little duck, but from my left.  One lonesome duck is swimming madly, trying to reach the others.

Poor little guy.  Wonder why he wasn’t with the others?

The brave duck quacks eagerly.  If one had to define the tone of the duck’s quacks, the best word would be “encouraging.”  The brave little duck was encouraging the lone duck.

Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my lost duck.’

The brave duck waits.  Not swimming.  But watching and waiting until the lone duck reaches him and together they swim toward the other three which have now reached the far shore and are waiting for their friends.

Brave little duck… wandering out in the dark night to ensure the safety of the passage for the others.  But what if it hadn’t been safe?  What would have happened to that brave little duck?  Terrible as it might be to think about it, even if it hadn’t been safe, that brave little duck would have saved the lives of the others.  

They step out of the water and back onto the shore.  Probably looking for a place to bed down for the night…

Brave little duck… he knew that if the waters were dangerous and they all went together, they’d all perish.  He went ahead so that he could lead the others.  Isn’t that what God asks us to do?  To be the people who go ahead?  Who step into uncharted territories and lead others to the safety of the other shore?  

I watch until I can’t see them anymore.  They are just dots over there and the moonlight isn’t lighting the distant shore.  But I know they are there.  Safe.  And all because of one brave little duck who put his life on the line for the others.

God, I don’t know why on earth you would answer a prayer with a duck, but I hear you loud and clear.  The waters are dangerous, but if someone won’t venture out to test them, how will anyone ever get to that distant shore?  

The dog has lost interest, now.  The ducks are gone.  He’s pacing the dock like a bored child.  My eyes rise from the river to the hills.

I lift my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from?

And from the hills my eyes rise to the sky and I gaze at the infinite expanse of the heavens.

I hear you loud and clear, God.  Loud and clear.

Creative Commons License
Appalachian Preacher by Rev. Amanda Gayle Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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