Life Is Like the River

Comparison of Characteristics

A river has four characteristics that can help us constructively consider our lives. I have seen numerous young married couples in crisis because they experienced different lives than anticipated. 

For example, Pam and I married on September 1, 1962. I was accepted at East Tennessee State and enrolled in an MEd in school counseling. The morning after our honeymoon night at a Holiday Inn in north Atlanta, we were off to Johnson City where we made a hotel room our living base.

Pam began looking for a job, and I started classes. We were typical college graduates of the 1960s. Our first Saturday afternoon, we looked at a Triumph TR4—with me, a student, and her without a job. As I write this, I checked today’s retail value of what was then listed for $2890. Today, fifty-nine years later, it is worth $37,000 to $57,000. Oh my, even without jobs….

Pam was competing with hundreds of new graduates looking for work and was finally told by Snelling and Snellings agency, “We can get you a job at Kodak in the typing pool.” That was thirty miles away. The hotel owner overheard our conversation; he checked with his widowed mother and then offered to live with her until we were settled. “You cannot afford to live here, and it is not the proper place for newlyweds to start life,” were his kind words.

We moved into her beautiful home and shared her kitchen. The following weekend she invited us to attend her church for her grandson’s Christening. We agreed. It is a long story, but the Lord changed our life direction dramatically through the Pastor’s sermon. We packed and headed to Philadelphia for me to attend Faith Theological Seminary.

In weeks, Pam’s “river” experienced an influx of tributaries that could have easily caused a flood. My dear wife went with the current and negotiated the debris by God’s grace, as did I. The result has been a sixty-year cruise filled with joy and rejoicing with some occasional debris, floods, and draughts that were quickly overcome at the “good hand of God upon us” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Like, a River, Life Flows 

A great quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, ‘You cannot step it the same river twice.” It means that things are always in a state of flux. 

Pam’s river went from being an average civilian to being an officer’s wife in the Lord’s army. Over the next sixty years, she has never been able to step back into that river and be an everyday citizen. 

Think for a moment of all those wives whose husbands came back from Afghanistan minus limbs, eyesight, or suffering from PTSD. They can never step back into their yesterday river. Their life kept on flowing when those men left for military service. They had only one choice. Go with the flow. Leaving the marriage, as some, did not extricate them from their river.  

Think of Abram. He was a wealthy contented businessman of his day. Then, one day, God called upon him. God challenged him to leave his country, trust Him and wonder toward the Promised Land. He could not return Ur to the Chaldees and resume his pagan life.

 Life, like the River, Can Be Channeled

By sending Mississippi river waters on a new course, engineers hope to build new land—and test ways to save a retreating coast is the gist of a recent news story. What an incredible idea. Channel the mighty Mississippi! It will be a challenge, but she will be channeled. 

A little research will yield numerous instances where rivers have been channeled to alter their flow and repurpose the energy of the river. 

In like manner, we can channel our lives to repurpose our energies for the glory of God, the benefit of our family, and the benefit of our own lives. 

There is a TV program in the background as I am writing this. The main character has just found himself in an untenable situation unless he walks away and redirects his energies. He did not walk away but engaged with the problem. He repurposed his life and the life of another family, rechanneling both his and their energies and hence, their lives. 

Jesus’ disciples rechanneled their energies and skills from fishing for fish to fishing for men. This strategy was imitated by Jesus, who invaded their lives with his invitation to follow him with his promise to make them fishers of men. Their lives and energies and the lives and energies of millions have been challenged, rechanneled, and repurposed as a result—the rivers of life kept flowing.

Life, like a River, Has Tributaries.

Whether they want more water or not, rivers have an influx of tributaries. Some tributaries carry trash and mud, while others feed it with fresh water that keeps its levels high enough to serve downstream purposes.

The river of life has many tributaries. Some are trash, like an auto crash. Some are debris of various resulting from poor decisions or disobedience to God. Others will be opportunities that will enhance growth and development “downstream.”  

Life, like a River, Has a Destination. 

Rivers flow to the ocean in which they are absorbed. Every life that flows into eternity is absorbed into either heaven or hell. Jesus offers to repurpose your life by accepting His call to repentance and a new life of faith and service. This acceptance brings a cleansing of sin, dredging of debris, and a new purpose of glorifying Him, leading to a new home that He is preparing for believers in His Father’s house. 

For the poor soul who refuses to respond to His call, the gift of salvation and repurposing of life for the glory of God arrives at the ocean called hell and often a hellish life on the journey downstream with a life cluttered with the debris of alcohol, drug abuse, marital failure and all sorts other painful experiences.

Implementation or Channel by life by Praying–

As a person who is not yet a Christ-follower: Father, forgive me for I have sinned. Save me, for I am undone. Direct me, for I am lost. Grant me this day purpose for the present and all eternity. Amen!

This prayer is for you for the believer whose river has become clogged with the sinful debris of life. Father, forgive me, cleanse me afresh as I confess my sin today. Cleanse me according to your promise, through John, that if I confess my sin, you will cleanse me from all unrighteousness while you remain both faithful and just. Amen!

As the person who has debris cluttering the river of relationships, here is a prayer for you. Lord, I have sinned against my wife (or whoever) by (name it and own it—no excuses), please forgive me and help me to humble myself, own my sin, and ask my wife (or whomever) to grant me forgives so we can restore our relationship and glorify You. Amen!

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