The River – provider, destroyer, inspiration

Eleanor Deckert
The River – provider, destroyer, inspiration

For 40 years of my life I have lived beside a river.

I have travelled on it, bathed in it. It has given me water to drink and food to eat. It has baptized my babies and carried away the ashes of my dear friend's body.

Often I do Tai Chi circles and stretches beside the river. Left to right and right to left. Sun and shade. Seasons and days. The water itself is a cycle.

With my children we picnic, dig in the sand, wade in the mud, gather pretty things. We crash great rocks on the ice, trying to make spring come all the sooner. We look for tracks of bear and beaver, deer and moose, coyotes and geese. We watch eagles hunt, heron wade, beavers build, and goslings hurry after their parents. Froggies, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and swallows, all call the riverside home.

The river gives life. But it also takes it.

My husband rushes to offer first aid to tourists, their car already underwater. My boys notice two men load canoes and glide happily down the calm waters. They capsize in the rapids eight miles later and spend the night shivering on the far side with no way to signal for help.

A flood slowly rises. Cattle must be moved, sand bags filled, families re-located, mud and rock and debris cleared away.

The river is my inspirational teacher. I listen and it tells me about life and its cycles. It teaches me about power and force and time. It tells me that a little bit does make a difference. It tells me about order and variety. Creation tells me about the Creator.

The river reminds me to look up, to say Thank You, to wait.

Once I was in terrible agony about the Devil. I was in a Bible study group and he was described as so frightful and powerful and consuming.

I noticed as I walked beside the river that my muscles were very tense, my feet holding on, my toes trying to grip the earth – as if the river would reach out and up and swallow me, my children, my babies! Fear! Dread! No safe haven!

Then I paused to look again. The river is not terrible. It cannot reach out and grab me. IF I go into the river, then it can overwhelm me, pull me down, swirl and chill me to my death. But, if I leave it alone, it has no power over me at all.

Maybe that is what Evil and the Devil are like. If I stay away, it cannot actively reach out and grab me, but if I play with fire I will get burned. What I believe about Evil, I learned from the river.

The river offers another lesson. I also learn about Good.

In Eden's Paradise described in the first two chapters of Genesis, “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.” (Ch. 2:10)

Psalm 1 also uses the image of a river to describe the happiness of the godly person. “S/he is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that s/he does s/he prospers.” Psalm 1:3

A river can be an unhappy symbol too. “My eyes flow with tears like rivers.” (Lamentations 3:48).

Sometimes, while I walk in the quiet, a familiar folk-hymn from Isaiah 48:18 comes to mind:

Peace is flowing like a river

Flowing out through you and me

Flowing out into the desert

Setting all the captives free.

The following verses bring a sense of God's good gifts. Joy, Faith, Hope, Love is flowing like a river...

When I get home from my wandering and pondering, I check to see. Yes, my memory is correct. The very last chapter of the Bible describes the Paradise to come.

“Then he 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; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:1-2)