Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Headwaters of the Tobesofkee

I recently spent a day with Wade Rooks, an old friend from my hometown; at the end of the day we realized that we had spent more time together in that one day than we had in the previous thirty-five years combined. It was a good day.

We were driving on a short bypass north of town that connects Highway 41 to Highway 341 and that, compared to most roads in Barnesville, has not been there very long; on the side of the road was a sign telling us that we were crossing Tobesofkee Creek. I said, “You know, until they built this road I had no idea that Tobesofkee Creek ran through Lamar County. I cross it all the time on I-75 and I-475 south of Macon but I didn’t know it came this far.” “If I’m not mistaken,” my friend said, “the headwaters of Tobesofkee Creek are here. Do you remember that creek we used to go to? I think the headwaters are around there.”

I was dumbfounded. I’ve crossed Tobesofkee Creek in Bibb County hundreds of times but didn’t know that the stream originated in my home county. So, to all you folks who live around Lake Tobesofkee and who boat, swim, and fish in the lake, I say “You’re welcome.”

And just like that, the Tobesofkee became for me a metaphor for the way life goes.

Wade has lived in Lamar County for all of his life; he stayed near our headwaters, near the source of everything for both of us—faith, friendship, family, and a fair amount of foolishness. He has made his life there; it is there that he has found his career, his interests, his gains, his losses, his struggles, his relationships, and—most importantly, he would say—his daughter and his grandchildren.

I, on the other hand, left home to go to college and, except for visits, have never (at least, not yet) moved back. Interestingly enough, my life in its outline has followed the course of the Tobesofkee. I first went to Macon, where at Mercer University I was blessed with an education, a worldview, a mentor, and a partner that together proved to be the most formative realities in my life. I got my start, like the creek, in Lamar County but it was in Bibb County where I, like the creek, got dammed up and built up and developed; it was in Macon that I became a little more useful. And the Tobesofkee empties into the Ocmulgee River which runs through Ben Hill County where I now live and work. It is in those places that I have made my life; there I found my career, my interests, my gains, my losses, my struggles, and—most importantly, I would say—my wife and my children.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I have along the way wandered off the Tobesofkee path and sojourned in lands where other rivers flow: Louisville, Kentucky and the Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee and the Cumberland; Augusta, Georgia and the Savannah; and Adel, Georgia and the Little, the New, and the Withlacoochee.)

When we got together the other day, though, Wade and I found ourselves catching each other up on what’s been happening over the past three and a half decades while at the same time celebrating our mutual roots. We spoke of how our faith has developed in different ways, largely because of the different paths we’ve taken, but also of how our faith was birthed, nurtured, and blessed by our families and by our older sisters and brothers at the Midway Baptist Church.

Wade and I easily fell back into our friendship; that was largely because of the project on which we had gotten together to work, a project that involves something we both love, though his love has been life-long while mine has been of more recent origin. (As to the nature of that project, let me just say “Watch out, Nashville!”) At a deeper level, though, we fell easily back into our friendship because, while he stayed there and I left there, we are both from there. While lots of things have changed, that is one thing that has not and will not—because it cannot.

Spending the day with my old friend Wade reminded me of the importance both of our roots and of our journey. We start where we start and we go where we go; our beginnings define us but so do the paths we choose to take and the circumstances that are thrust upon us. Wade and I have both done a lot of living and we’ve both in our own ways gone a long way from where we started.

Yes, we’re both a long way downstream now. But it was good—it is good—to return to the headwaters …

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