Lessons from the River

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

As the saying goes, “still waters run deep.” There is a depth to each of us. In the stillness of rest, we may feel a void in the darkness not quite able to articulate what it is we’re desiring to form, yet the Spirit of God hovers above us ready to draw up His creation from its water.

In our own earthly arrivals, we’re drawn from the water surrounding us in our mother’s womb into an adjustment to this world. And when we realize this world is not our home, we seek another and are welcomed back to the relationship with our Creator through faith in Christ, followed by baptism into water and immersion in His Spirit (John 3:5-7). Like babies in the womb surrounded by water, we become surrounded by the Spirit of God which once moved only above the surface of our lives but now nurtures and houses us until we’re squeezed through another passage.

And our passages are many. As David wrote in his song of deliverance, “He drew me out of many waters… He also brought me forth into a broad place…” (2 Samuel 22:17,20)

The water we drink, bathe, and recreate in is the same water in which Adam and Eve plunged. Water itself changes form, yet there is no more or less water in existence today than from the dawn of creation.

And God uses His creation of water as both destroyer and deliverer. The flood of Noah’s day caused the unrepentant to perish yet those same waters were the agent through which Noah and his family were delivered. That is why the apostle Peter compares the waters of Noah’s day to Christian baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21).

Baptism, like Noah’s flood, is a symbol of something being destroyed and also delivered.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)

Cleansing us through the washing of water with the word, He destroys the old nature as we die with Christ and rise up as a new creation. (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

It would seem with a story like Noah’s flood, no one would anticipate a river released from heaven as something to be sought with gladness, yet this pure river of life continually flows from the throne in heaven bearing fruit with leaves for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).

It is by this river which He continues to renew the earth

You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:30)

Below the surface of our flesh is a spiritual seed waiting to be watered and renewed by this river. And yet, some of us never say “give me a drink.”

In conversation with the woman at a well, Jesus told her ““If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” He made a comparison between the well of Jacob and His own well of living water and told her, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:7-14)

When this woman was presented with the truth that there were two sources of water; one which would cause her to thirst again and another that would become a well-spring to eternal life, she answered, “Sir, give me this water.”

And everyday we are confronted with two sources of water as well. A river of life and a river leading to death. Both offer a strong current that makes it easy to keep flowing along in it. 

Many summers ago, my boyfriend and I took our inner tubes down the Eau Claire river. It was a peaceful, lazy ride until we both went over the falls! At that point, there was no turning back. The river had us. Once I was under the falls, the water was pounding on top of me while at the same time propelling me forward in the current. I honestly didn’t know which way was up and therefore had no idea where to direct my strokes toward survival. I was completely at the mercy of that river and it was frightening. At one point I came up long enough to gasp for air and saw people standing on the rock ledge reaching out their hands to help but the current took me right past their grasp. Eventually, the current died down and I was able to exit the river which had taken my boyfriend to the left and me to the right at its fork and neither of us knew if the other had survived. Thankfully, we found each other downstream and laughed at our adventure. We continued to date, got married, and raised our children in a home we built on a river.

The Lord called that memory back to mind one day and related it to how each choice we make puts us in a current. Currents make it easy to keep going along. They can even become a comfort zone. One current takes us into a flow making it easier to sin, but one step into the river of life makes it easier to lift our hands in praise, bless our enemies in prayer, and resist temptation. When the flaming arrow hits you, which river will you jump in for relief? From my experience of being caught up in a raging river, I know that by the time one current has you in its flow, even your well intentioned efforts to get out are futile. The river has you, not the other way around. Therefore, to be helplessly in the flow of His Spirit is a much better place to be. 

Twenty years after that first river trip with my husband, God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of my troubled waters. It was 2002 and I wasn’t sure about my involvement with the Watchtower yet not at the point of admitting it. But of course, God knew and hovered above those deep waters. Late that summer, I was introduced to kayaking in a body of water named “Amen lake.” I felt at peace there and the next weekend we bought our own set of kayaks. 

The river always welcomed me and calmed my spirit.
Escaping to those calm waters gave me time to reassess the current of my life and the direction it was taking.

I was still technically in the Watchtower until December of 2004, but much of my fading time was spent in a kayak praying and crying in my beer.

In addition to receiving my tears, the river holds many joyful stories of fun times with friends and family. At one point we owned a fleet of 7 kayaks in addition to several canoes, Jon boats, and more recently a paddle boat. When we adopted our dog Banjo, we bought a kayak designed to take him along too. I baptized three different friends in that river. And it was that same river that led me to a sandbar where I experienced a powerful Spirit baptism while praying. That current released an intercession for former Jehovah’s Witnesses which led toward rescuing others from the Watchtower current. I partnered with Christy and Witnesses for Jesus, Inc. by leading the Meetup groups for prayer and discussion among former Jehovah’s Witnesses. Over the years I even introduced some of the Meetup members to kayaking through an annual mini Midwest XJW fest at my home in which we shared our stories around the campfire and indulged in pie fights on the river. While Christy was hosting monthly telephone conference calls with the members on her ministry team, there were times I called in while sitting in my kayak. And in 2017 when we made the decision to close down the Meetup groups, I went kayaking alone to process the change.

After nearly 4 decades of living on this bend of the Black River,
I’ve learned that whatever the water touches, it changes.

It takes away and it also gives. I love the surprise treasures the river brings from sandals and shoes left in the sand, to footballs, coolers, lawn chairs, even an entire 6 x 8 deck! Earlier that year, I asked my husband to build a deck on my stationary retro camper, but the river beat him to it by gifting us a deck — on my birthday no less! On a kayak trip with my daughter one summer, she spotted a tiny tip of something shimmering above the water and we discovered a canoe and paddle below the surface. With help from her boyfriend and my husband, we were able to bring it up, take it downstream, and return it to a local campsite. We too lost a  boat once when a dam upstream was opened and a mighty current stretched and snapped the rope which had tied our boat to a tree. The rushing high waters took our Jon boat downstream. Thankfully, my husband and a friend later found it caught up in a log jam and were able to bring it home. With every spring thaw, the water rises so we’re sure to bring up our boats well before the freeze. And throughout the summer months, our kayaking and camping adventures are determined by the rise and fall of the river stage. The sandbars never look the same because each year their size is determined by the flow of the river which changes all that it touches. 

And if you exchange the word “Spirit” with my description of the water in that last paragraph, you’ll understand the lessons God has given me.
God’s Spirit also changes whatever it touches.

We are at the mercy of water even as we are at the mercy of God. Sometimes He gives us a surprise treasure, other times the flow sweeps it away. And sometimes there’s just a glimmer of something on the surface which we could easily float past, never going deeper to investigate the things God has hidden below the surface. That’s why it’s not just about the flow, but where we stop to immerse ourselves in it.

Another twenty years later in my kayak and I had a need to hear from God concerning the direction of my life. Naturally, I chose the kayak as my prayer closet where I could be still and know that He is God. As I floated along, I thought about how the river just takes me without having to paddle much. God’s Grace is like a current gently flowing us where He desires.

As I was praying, I caught sight of the bridge upstream. My husband had dropped me off at the landing below it and now as I looked behind me, the bridge was fading in the distance. When it was finally out of view, I was left with only the river. The bridge that took me to the river was no longer needed. I was simply in the flow. And that was God’s lesson to me as I prayed:

Stop looking at the bridge.
Just recognize the ride.

A bridge is like a comfort zone. Sometimes we park ourselves there to watch others in the river. Perhaps it’s just not time to jump in? But it would be wrong to stay on a bridge indefinitely when its purpose is to cross it as we go onward in our journey. Thus the saying to “burn your bridges.” I sensed that I was at a crossroads in my life, yet hesitating and delaying because I wasn’t sure where I was going.

Then I remembered Jesus’ words about the life we have in the Spirit of which wind is a metaphor. We can’t control the wind. It blows wherever it wishes and we don’t know where it is going either. Jesus said this is true of everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

We don’t always know where He is taking us, though we’ve heard the sound of the wind. I knew it was better to follow the flow of His Spirit not knowing where He would take me, than to stay on that bridge.

My desire is to give God the glory and always be in His flow. As I prayed and made my mental list of pros and cons in this decision before me, I realized my list of cons only had to do with personal fears and insecurities. I could stay on the bridge, but how would staying in a comfort zone glorify God?

He brought me to the bridge but I’ve stayed too long.
I knew He was telling me it was time to cross it
and recognize the current He was now directing me toward.

So I said yes to Him, insecurities and all. Something is being destroyed and something is being delivered. Such is the lesson of water. I trust the river of His Spirit will touch and change me.  It already has over and over many times. This current will surprise me with treasures to keep and abruptly wash away what’s no longer mine to hold. The waters will continue to prune these branches through every teachable moment along the way. Because it’s all about Him, and I’m just along for the ride. 

Keep yourself in God’s love,

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Author: Julie

As a convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Julie believed she had found “the Truth,” but when she was “disfellowshipped” for “apostasy” when she questioned the organization's policies and refused to trust the organization over Jesus as her ONLY mediator, Julie left to find true freedom serving the REAL Jehovah God in joy and truth! Call Julie at 719-355-7164 ext 113