Saturday, May 15, 2004

Rivers & Roads 

Looking out the plane window and down on the Rio Grande winding its way to the Gulf of Mexico, I was amazed to see just how curvy the river is; there were times when it practically doubled back on itself. This struck me as a convoluted and inefficient way to get water to the sea. The loopy path contrasted starkly to the straight roads, which formed grid lines that ran directly to the horizon.
As I observed these two paradigms of movement I realized why the natural form of progress is more like a river than a road. Although roads are the most efficient way to get somewhere, they require a lot of resources and effort, both to build them and to maintain them, whereas rivers develop and are maintained naturally.

Not only are rivers self-creating and self-sustaining, they readily adjust to their environment. No water? No problem. The riverbed dries up, but its channel is ready for the next inundation. When a river hits resistance in its path, it finds an alternate route. This makes the water flow in a less than straight line, but that is insignificant compared to accomplishing its principal mission: arriving at its destination. And even though the river finds an alternative route, it also deals with the impediment, slowly, patiently, wearing it away.

Roads are born of our economy and efficiency. That is not a criticism; I like roads, especially good, straight, smooth ones. Here in Mexico we frequently pay good money so we can travel a straight road instead of a loopy one with potholes and speed bumps to boot. (The toll between Mexico City and Toluca is now up to eight dollars for a 15 minutes stretch.) But as I have reflected on this since that flight last October, I have realized that roads help mollify our limitations. We have limited time on this earth; we have limited energy and limited resources so we (especially we, Americans) want to do things as efficiently as possible.

Rivers, on the other hand, emanate from another economy all together different; a system defined by receiving and being faithful with what is given. It seems to me that rivers illustrate God’s economy, one unconcerned with our limitations or sense urgency but defined by His sufficiency and ability to accomplish His purposes.

When I am frustrated by obstacles in my path or by how slowly my projects feel like they are advancing, I remind myself that the shape of the work God is doing in and through me is that of a river. He will accomplish His purposes, although the path might look inefficient and loopy to me.

This image has really stuck with me and has been a great reminder to wait on God and rest in His timing. I hope it can do the same for you.

[Just in case you're wondering I didn't take that picture and that's not the Rio Grande. Its from the great site Webshots and the river is the Gunnison in Colorado.]

What a fresh and helpful perspective! Thanx for sharing it!
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