As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,’” ~ John 7:38
I stopped on the bridge east of Cottonwood Park to look and to listen to the Mancos River flowing below. It is unbelievable, a holy source. Chocolate-brown water moves swiftly by, jumping over rocks, and spraying freely, unencumbered by fear. The river is pressing the limits of its banks. The town has placed sandbags, two deep, on the west end of the park to try to contain the flow, but the river will go where it chooses.
The velocity and the steady hum of the water is mesmerizing, calming, and frightful all at the same time. When our son Ro was in Mancos Elementary School, he and his friends, Everett and Tyler, rode a cheap raft from the school down to Cottonwood Park during the spring runoff. The river bounced them off the banks like a pinball, over boulders, and through briar patches along the edges. Rocks gouged holes in their raft and prickly bushes scratched their skin from head to toe. At the end of each run, they would return to our house, patch their raft with duct tape, and do it all over again.
Michael Yaconelli in Dangerous Wonder says, “What moments! What holy moments! To be in the presence of God, frightened and amazed at the same time! To feel as if you are in the presence of Life itself, yet with your soul shaking in both terror and gratitude.”
The river roared beneath my feet. I loved and revered her all at once. I would not step into her waters today. Father Richard Rohr reflects, “I believe that faith might be precisely an ability to trust the river, to trust the Flow and the Lover.”
The first bend in the river beyond the bridge is “our baptismal font” which has disappeared under the deluge of water. Usually, I officiate at river baptisms during the late summer months or early fall when the flow is “patient and kind” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4). A good introduction to the grace and compassion of God, our Creator.
I remember gently lowering Brad, a former 7th grade student of mine, into the gentle water. Now 42, Brad came up out of the river gasping for breath, water and tears of joy poured down his face. Brad gave me a very wet bear hug and said, “Thank you.” Through the Grace of baptism, “We only need to allow the Flow to flow—through us.” The river is a gift we receive but we do not control. I remind myself that as powerful as the river is, it always flows down, the path of least resistance.
When I get frustrated, hurried, and anxious, I am usually trying to coerce the flow of the river. I don’t trust it. I place sandbags to guide the river where I think she should go. My attempts are generally futile, but for some strange reason I keep trying to control the flow of life.
“We don’t need to push the river because we are in it. The life is lived within us, and we learn how to say yes to that life. We can trust the flow and trust the life, the life so large and deep and spacious that it even includes its opposite, death,” says Rohr. I look down from the bridge at large tree branches floating by; the river moves everything.
Sometimes I/we get wrapped up in “our stories, our hurts, our agendas.” As Rohr says, “It’s too small. It’s not the whole us. It’s not the great river. It’s not where life is really going to happen.” We get bogged down and stuck in the mud, and we forget that a “river of living water” flows through us (John 7:38), filling us with wisdom, love, discernment, and strength.
The Spirit is called a “spring of water gushing” forever within us (John 4:14) and a “river of life” (Revelations 22:1). As Rohr says, “We are part of a much larger stream called God.”
With Grace, we can begin to understand why we are stuck, and we let the river flow. We sing a simple, wonderful song, “Let the blind man say I can see again; Let the dead man say I am born again. Let the river flow. Let the river flow. Holy Spirit Come, Move in Power.”
The river is moving this Easter, this spring. Resurrection is everywhere. May we trust the powerful river of love moving through us, and with us. May we let the river flow and enter into abundant life. Amen.
Blessings and peace,