On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

Drift — it must be one of the saddest words in the English language.

It says you’re slipping–falling back–sliding downstream. It says you’re no longer focused on your goal. You’ve lost heart. No energy. You’ve given up and are now simply being carried where ever the current takes you.

Many people are great starters. Have you noticed? They have the right ideas, the exact things to say, wonderful plans, terrific strategies. They sound sensational. Then, they tire fast. It’s almost as if someone turned off an internal switch within them. The change is almost visible. Click…the stamina is stopped. Click…the dynamism has disappeared. Click…the enthusiasm has ended. Click…the dash is dead.They no longer fight against the current. They no longer strive to attain the goal. They are simply adrift.

Have you ever noticed that when one drifts, the direction is always downstream. It’s an easy float. It doesn’t take any thought or responsibility or focus. It doesn’t take effort or plans. One just “goes with the flow.” It is so seductive–so effortless–so casual.

Once, when I was about 10, my family made our traditional vacation trek to Yosemite Valley. We found “our spot” on the river and pitched our tents and hoisted our tarps and set up our stove. The wide, cool, free flowing Merced River moved in its meandering journey to the Pacific only a few feet from the campsite. We had a big truck inner tube to use in the river. One warm, sunny afternoon I pushed the tire out into the stream and began to drift away. I could have paddled to shore easily, but I decided to let the river take me. It did. Sometimes the current would take me close to the right side then swing me over to the left. Sometimes, I found some white water, and on other occasions I hardly moved at all. I floated downstream, basking in the warm sun, surrounded by magnificent scenery, smelling the perfume of the pines, listening to the singing of the river, fully entranced. It was easy…and I kept getting farther and farther away from the campsite.

After a few hours I noticed it started to cool off. I looked around. Only the wilds. I struggled to move toward shore. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. It was then it hit me. I now had to hike back to the campsite– in bare feet and only a pair of shorts as the sun began to dip down behind El Capitan.. Finally, I found a phone and called my dad. He rescued me. I learned a lesson that day about the consequences of drifting. When I got back to the campsite I also learned a lesson about communication. But that’s another story.

The drift for some people seems more like a riptide. They enjoy the sand. The surf looks so inviting–the water so cool and refreshing. They ignore the posted warning signs and they venture forth–just a few feet. “Nothing will happen,” they say to themselves. “I’ll stay close to the shore. I’ll keep my feet on the ground. It’s fun. No problem!”


Before they know it, their frolic has lifted them–the undertow has taken them. They are out beyond the breakers, and the shoreline is rapidly growing smaller. They struggle against it–swimming strongly at first–making no headway–gradually growing tired, then exhausted, then giving up. They had never learned the basic response to riptides. They had gotten into something about which they were poorly informed, undereducated, ignorant.

Sometimes, riptide drifters are rescued. Sometimes not. When it happens successfully, they explain that they were “caught in the riptide” and couldn’t help themselves. In blaming the tide, they refused to recognize their own role in the problem.They failed to realize that the problem started on the beach. The signs were ignored. Indicators were present and not attended to. Any drifter talks him or herself into the appropriateness of the decision which initiates the drift. Drifting into dangerous waters leads us into dire consequences. Starts so easy. Correction so difficult. Rescue essential.

The second chapter of Hebrews starts with these words. “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard so that we do not drift away for if the message spoken…was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

I’ve been speaking metaphorically here. Do you see anything that might fit?

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