I have often stated that I will live to 125, and I am not sure that is even enough time to get everything done I would like to do in life. While I do have many hectic and stressful days, I am grateful to be busy. Even during our hectic lives, we need to set time aside to meditate and refocus on what is most important in life. We need to stop and rest. We need to invest the time to nourish our souls, minds, and bodies. We need to sit beside the streams of life before they become raging rivers. In this Wisdom Note, let us consider how life is like a river.
All rivers start as a few drops of rain. In comparison, our birth is like the formation of a spring on a hillside, which has gathered its water from the rain or snow-melt trickling off the mountain slopes.
As a child grows from an infant to toddler and begins to jabber, so is the babbling of a brook as it gains both volume and intensity. Before long, the child is growing and gaining traits that he will carry throughout his life. The brook expands into a creek with more of a defined course that it follows, leaving its mark everywhere it flows.
As our children grow into their teen years they begin to show their independence from their youth, and they seem to be always on the go. In the same way, the creeks come together to form the rivers that cascade over rocks and trees, forming rushing waters and rapids that are difficult to navigate. Like these streams and rivers, they encounter obstacles and challenges but learn to overcome these obstacles by wearing them down or finding a path around or through them.
Even as we grow into adults, at times there are massive floods, huge waterfalls, and raging rapids. We also learn that there are the periods of smooth and peaceful flow. The observation to be made is that the flow never stops but continues on.
Our lives flow from bend to bend. We do not always know what we will find around the next curve. Some tumbles may result as the water crashes against obstacles. As with our lives, the river changes its course but continues on. Some of the blockages with which we meet hold us back until we build up enough force behind ourselves to break through and continue on.
At times our lives even include sudden let downs and seeming tragedies, but even in those times, we have the opportunity to create impressive waterfalls as we cascade over a cliff. Maybe you have already had a Niagara of an experience. I know in our lives we have experienced the falls. If you have also, then you know firsthand that the life of a river does not end at the bottom of the fall. The river instead swirls itself together again and continues on—now on a different level than before, a level even closer to sea level, which has been its goal all along.
You are closer to your destination after having had a spill, so count those times as blessings and move on. The falls will remain there, in your past, ceaselessly active, but you will have flowed downstream, out of sight and hearing of it. Knowing that you can’t go back to it, you are wise enough to leave it behind you as you flow onward toward your destiny.
Eventually, we, as rivers, carve wide valleys of maturity in our senior years after which may come meanders that sometimes run back upon themselves nearly full circle. In those meandering times, we may wonder why our lives have to double back to learn lessons again, but learn we do, allowing us to flow onward. Just as the rivers deepen and become still, we know that as we gain deep wisdom in our lives, our spirits become peaceful and still within us.
Then, we become mellow in anticipation of our approach to the delta to greet the waters of the sea. There, the fresh and salty blend as the original snow-melt melds into the sea. Is this where the river ends? No, it does not. The droplets of an impact that you have made on your journey are transported back to the formation of the initial spring as the journey begins anew through the lives of future generations. Our lives are like a river that flows through us, not a reservoir accumulating life for ourselves. The living legacy that we create each day should flow into others so that their journeys through life will be rich and satisfying because of what flows through us.
From the creation of humans in the Garden of Eden, rivers were the source of nourishment and life, as is described in Genesis 2:10, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.” In the same way, we should desire God as David wrote in Psalms 42:1, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”
Now, think about how many parallels you can find between a river and your life. And let us be mindful to invest our time wisely on our trek of life and keep moving forward each day.