I stood at the headwaters of the massive Mississippi River, amazed at its small beginnings. My sisters and I took off our shoes and easily waded across. I could hear the water bubbling over the rock bed and could see a bridge of larger rocks laid as a drier way to cross. As we walked down a short trail and rounded a bend, the river changed drastically. The small stream suddenly widened into an extremely large river that would not allow wading or creating a bridge with boulders.
That long-ago visit reminds me of the Christian walk. We start out shallow, having not yet developed an understanding of the Bible, let alone how to live it. Just like the headwaters, boulders in our life can cause us to “reroute” where we flow. Almost anything can affect our walk with Christ in the early days of our journey.
Not only did the shallow waters change course to move around the boulders, they also were more turbulent than the deeper river. The rocky bed stirred the waters just like our early days as a Christian often result in vacillating moods and reactions. Our feeling-based responses to life need to develop the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Until then, our lives may be more turbulent and unsteady.
The noisy gurgling of the stream also parallels our early spiritual journey. We find it easy to complain, respond in anger, and put our wants and desires ahead of others. That conduct likely creates an irritating sound to those around us and doesn’t provide a good testimony for Christ.
Yet as we mature in our Christian walk, we become more like the Mississippi River we normally think of – deep, peaceful, and powerful.
Contrasting the shallow headwaters with the large river, the rocks thrown in the deep water have no impact. The river affects the rocks instead of the other way around. As we mature in Christ, obstacles tend to have a lesser effect on us. With the power of the Holy Spirit, we allow Him to use us to affect change in the middle of our circumstances, while making us stronger.
Unlike the gurgling stream that produces a lot of noise, the mighty river is very quiet and peaceful. Often mature Christians are noted for the peace they exude. They demonstrate a resiliency and steadiness that others notice and are drawn to. Isaiah 26:3 promises that peace to those who trust in God. “You [God] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
And finally, a deep river is powerful. The river near my home has flowed out of its banks several times over the past few years. Each time it threatens the bridge over it as the river continues to carve away at the riverbank creating massive amounts of erosion that has felled several trees. As we grow in our understanding of God’s Word and how to apply it in our lives, we too become exceeding powerful. With the help of the Holy Spirit and submission to God, we can do great things for God’s kingdom – taking back enemy territory and bringing many to Christ.
May our Christian walk grow into a deep river - peaceful and powerful – an instrument that doesn’t succumb to needless diversions, but instead creates a way for others to follow Christ.