“I realized I’m not a lake, I’m a river.”
I heard this on a podcast recently. I backed it up and replayed it. I was intrigued by this idea and have been thinking about it ever since.
Each summer, my family travels to north Georgia to spend the week together in a house overlooking Lake Blueridge. We have fun catching up with one another, watching our littles turn into biggers, and reliving memories from days gone by.
It’s peaceful on the lake. We know where all the neighboring houses are and where to eat. We know what time boats will be on the water and what time they will be bobbing alongside the docks. It’s predictable. Just the way we like it.
I think we’ve been made to believe that life is that way…better on the lake.
But when I considered the rivers, I found that the rivers are where we grow and become who we are. See, the river is moving. Sometimes swiftly, sometimes barely at all. But it is always in motion, moving forward. There are people who enter and exit the river at different times and places. There are different fish and plants that live only in river areas.
Sometimes the part of the river we find ourselves flowing into requires a raft and helmet. Sometimes, we can just float along like we used to on lazy Saturdays in college. In either instance, we don’t necessarily enjoy every part of the journey. How many times have you found yourself ready to spend the day on the water with coolers packed and every oar checked, only to get out into the rapids and realize you left the sunscreen on the shore?
When the water isn’t moving, things become stagnant. Early in the mornings at the lake, we like to walk to the edge of the water and sip our coffee as the sun rises over the mountains. The kids love to scan the waterline but are inevitably disappointed when they find dead fish being tussled in the tides. We have scooped out pieces of another’s fishing line, bits of boats, even inner tubes that have made their way to our dock. Nowhere to go.
We have a lot of thoughts that come to us in this way. We didn’t sit down to ponder the garbage and distractions that we now find milling around in the crevices of our brains. As one of the ladies put it in our Bible study group, we are often left with thoughts that we can’t dispose of. We have them and hold them in our minds, but then we become stuck with them. We don’t have anywhere to put the unwanted thoughts, so they keep bobbing against our brains in the way the debris bumps against the dock of the lake.
But the water in the river keeps on moving. Debris may get dammed up somewhere for a time, but eventually, all the debris and water that comes behind it will cause it to dislodge and move along the current.
Biblically speaking, rivers play a huge role in the unfolding of the gospel. These waterways are important for drinking, bathing, irrigation, transportation, fishing, healing, and baptism. They are transformative.
My study bible elaborates on this idea from Psalm 36:8 which says, “They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.” It says that God provides life-giving food and water. His whole estate (ahem, the earth) is where he springs the abundance of food for all living things. The channel by which God brings forth the rain out of his storehouses comes from the aquifers and rivers he created. It goes on the state that this vivid imagery depicting God’s control over, and gift of, the waters from heaven which feed the rivers and streams of the source of the symbol of the river of the water of life that flows from the temple of God. Thus, it furnishes many sources of joy.
Ultimately, God provides the water of life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Destruction may come with the flood, but as we learned at VBS, God gave us a rainbow as a promise that the water will recede, and brighter days will come. And when they do, we will enjoy peace like a river, ebbing and flowing in the direction of the Father.
I just want to encourage you to hang on. You may need to tighten the strap on your life vest as you enter the treacherous waters ahead. You may need a friend to throw you a rope to keep you from crashing into the rocks. But if we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will not be pulled under. Keep moving. You are a river.
Isaiah 41:17-20 “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
Psalm 36:8 “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
Isaiah 66:12-13 “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Revelation 22:1-3 “Then the angels showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.”