I sometimes think my life is like a river, as it tumbles over rocks, and streams down towards the ocean.
When God created rivers, he did not make them go straight from the mountain to the sea, like the canals created by humans. He created them to meander, and sometimes double back in great horse-shoe curves. The small trickle that starts in the mountains is fed along the way by the influence of the many people who have impacted our lives – parents, siblings, friends, relatives, Sunday School and day school teachers.
The stream that started in the mountains which was me trickled hesitantly along, unsure of the way. My church connections were like a tunnel, trying to force me into their way of thinking, which succeeded to some extent, until I flowed out into the open air and examined the world around me, questioning why and how, and finding new springs that linked into the main stream of my consciousness.
Church and family influences encouraged me to follow the teaching of Jesus, which I did, while at the same time often disagreeing with their interpretation. Secondary school began to change my perspective, and I saw the hills around me as new challenges to be explored. Summer trips to France broadened me even more.
And so I began to grow into an adult river, usually flowing stronger as it went, but sometimes held back by obstacles, or changing to a trickle as events around affected its course. Training as a nurse introduced me to new channels of thought and gave me confidence to explore the world around. Meeting my husband Chris was the point where my river began to flow alongside another stream, and together we became strong. With children we became part of the wider world of families and friends, forming delightful pools of relationship, places to swim and share our lives. Life was a joy until tragedy hit in the form of serious illness: a huge boulder, thrown into the middle of the strong stream, causing turbulence and fear. We floundered around, grabbing for any rocks that would support us: healing services, prayer, doctors, friends. But sadly, this strong river was split in two. The part that was Chris trickled away to nothing, as he was absorbed into God and eternity. The remaining stream had difficulty finding the river bank, but when it did, it stayed close to it, and because it seemed a strong bank, the river felt strong again. The stream that was Chris returned to me in dreams and seemed to be always there in a part of my consciousness.
My husband Chris died when my three children were small. He was the biggest single human influence in my life. When we met it was like two rivers flowing together in parallel until eventually they joined to become one. When he died, the river narrowed to a smaller stream, but was soon joined by other stronger streams – friends and family. I felt then the strength of my relationship with God which was like the river banks, providing strength, security, integrity and meaning to my life especially when the water became turbulent, as it often did!
Rivers and streams can run through marshy places, swamps or mud fields. Its course can be altered by obstacles. These represent times of illness or sadness. It can become polluted or muddied as health declines, or if the banks are strengthened through faith in God and following his leading, can start to flow again more vigorously. When healthy it can support life, both vegetable and animal. My river has flowed through all of these.
An obstacle in early life was my mother’s illness, a marshy area. Later, my husband’s illness and death was like a huge boulder being thrown into the middle of the river, causing it to split in two. The part that was Chris trickled away to nothing, as he was absorbed into God. The remaining stream had difficulty finding the river bank, but when it did, stayed close to it, and because it was a strong bank, the river grew strong again.