The Wonder of Flowing Water

The cover of our journal for this month shows a scene that radiates one of the wondrous things that we all come in contact with--the wonder of flowing water. There are many lessons for us in flowing water and the things that it does. Moving water has the capacity to change everything that it touches. We live on the edge of the St. Joseph River in Michigan, and over the years we have seen the flowing water undercut huge trees and topple them into the river. We have seen banks erode away and man-made things slide into the river. We have watched huge objects float down the river and get hung up on something, and then watched over a period of months or even years as the flowing river works on the object and eventually carries it away. The patience and continuous action of moving water can bring incredible change all around it.

As science has come to understand how water works in its actions in a stream or river, it also has become obvious that human lives function in very much the same way. Many times humans want to make changes in things in quick easy ways. When we pray we frequently want God to do things in a fast easily recognized fashion. God usually works more like a river than like a bulldozer. God's actions in our lives take time, and the things that we accomplish in our lives that have lasting affects take place over a long period--not instantaneously. Quick fixes are not God's methodology, and they cannot be ours in most cases. Marriage problems take time to solve. Children require patience and consistent flow of love and direction to make the changes that will bring them fruitful and happy lives. We have much to learn from the flowing of water.

The process of change that we see in flowing water also does wonderful things for the water. In our part of Michigan, one of the things that can happen in a lake is that, because the water sits still for long periods of time, it can become depleted of oxygen, and things living in the water can die. In a stream or a running river, this never happens because as water falls and tumbles it gets oxygen from the atmosphere and becomes oxygenated supplying the living things in the water with this essential item for life. Stagnation is always bad for water, and it is bad for humans as well. Humans need to experience dynamic change in their lives. We cannot just sit still and wait for someone else or for God to solve our problems. In the Bible, God never acts and does something for man that man could do for himself. As the Jews made the Exodus out of Egypt, they did not see God act until they had gone as far as they could go. When the Egyptians were behind them, the Red Sea in front of them, and the mountains on both sides, they had no way to solve their own problems; that is when God acted. The process of change was necessary for this to happen, and God acted when they had exhausted all of their own options.

In life the same thing is true. God acts in our lives when we have done everything that we can do to solve our problems. We cannot sit on our hands and cry out to God and expect him to solve our problems with no effort on our part. When we are active in doing what God has told us to do, wonderful things happen. This is true of individuals as well as local congregations. When people tell me that they are unhappy with their spiritual life, have doubts, and lack faith, I ask them what they have done to allow themselves to be active and dynamic in making changes in life. Doing the work of the Lord not only brings good things to others, but makes enormous changes in our own lives in the level of our satisfaction and happiness. Just like water, we need to be flowing with activity because our activity does wonderful things for us.

Another thing that is unique about flowing water is that it brings great life to all that surrounds it. We have had the privilege of being on some lakes that are very quiet and still--Lake Powell, the Great Salt Lake, and many smaller lakes. These isolated lakes frequently were barren in terms of what surrounded them. The water pretty well stayed in the lake and unless humans were active, the surrounding landscape might be barren right down to the water's edge.

That is not true of streams and rivers. In our Grand Canyon trips the river literally teams with plant material and with animals that thrive on that material. When there is a tumbling stream with waterfalls and rapids, there will be a variety of plant, animal, and bird life that fluorishes in the area. People are like that too. A person who withdraws and is not active can be very alone. When someone loses a mate, it is very important that he not withdraw and refuse to be active and dynamic in the community. God instructs us to share with others, serve others, do good to others, and to teach others. This is not just for their benefit, but also for ours. Like water, we are to bring life to the world around us--spiritual life.

When Jesus came to the well in Samaria, he told the woman that He had water which, if one should drink it, he would never thirst again. Christ said "But the water I give.becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life" (John 4:14). Water figured prominently in the teachings of Christ and what He calls us as humans to do. Let us be encouraged and active in what we bring to a thirsty world.

--John N. Clayton

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