Early this morning, I read an article by John Ortberg entitled, “A River Runs Through It” (Conversations, 7.2, Fall/Winter 2009). I was sitting at our kitchen table with a fresh cup of coffee as I began to read this article. Each morning since receiving this new issue of Conversations, I have read a different article in this fine journal. The article was by John Ortberg and was about the life of God which flows from the Holy Spirit. I anticipated that the article would be good. What I didn’t know is that these words would feed me this morning:
When Jesus speaks of this central metaphor for our life with Him, the river is grace. The river is gift. Tow we desert people, the river is life. We don’t know much about the Garden of Eden, but we know this: a river ran through it. Genesis 2:10 says, “a river watering the Garden flowed in Eden” and everybody in Israel who hears that verse knows what that means; that’s life, that’s grace.” Beyond Genesis, other references to a river will bring tears to your eyes and hope to your soul if you will let it. Where the river flows, life will flourish. Where a river dries up, life does as well. Psalms 42 reads, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” When I used to sing the praise chorus based on this verse. I often had a mental image of a little deer like Bambi walking through a green forest — a little thirsty but otherwise fine. That’s not the picture in this psalm, though. Remember, Israel is desert country. The waters are dried up. This deer is going to die if he doesn’t find water — and that’s me. That’s every human being. To be cut off from the Spirit of God means a life of perpetual unsatisfied desires, spiritual dryness, emotional death. (p. 25)
I am glad I read this paragraph this morning. Why? Because it is easy to go through the week feeling tired, depleted, and overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. It is easy to ignore the river of God and think that working harder, being smarter, or fixing others is the answer.
I think about the following people:
- A young woman working impossible hours and trying to go to graduate school as well. She feels completely overwhelmed.
- A minister who was ill last week and now feels so far behind due to all of the work that he needs to do during the month of December.
- An older man deeply worried about his adult daughter who is going through a divorce.
- A business person in serious financial trouble after his business plummeted last year due to this economy.
- Parents alarmed about certain behaviors they are seeing in their children.
- An elder in a congregation feels disappointed and discouraged at the behavior of a few of his fellow elders.
Perhaps these people need to hear that the Spirit of God offers life. That life can be found no where else. Only the Spirit of God gives the life that will sustain us through the rough and tumble of humanity.
What about you?
Maybe just maybe you need to hear again that God has made the river of life and he invites us all to drink.
When are you most likely to feel tired, overwhelmed, or exasperated? What helped you during such a time?