River of Life analogy: Each is unique
During a recent retreat, our focus group was asked to draw “River of Life.”
A River of life is a visual narrative that helps people tell their stories of the past, present and future. Individuals can use this method to introduce themselves in a fun and descriptive way; a group can use it to understand and reflect on the past and imagine the future of a project, and it can be used to build a shared view compiled of different and perhaps differing perspectives. River of Life focuses on drawing rather than text, making it useful in drawing shared experiences.
The premise of a River of Life is that life is like a river with a beginning and an end. The river is a metaphor of our lives as we experience it. Sometimes the river is peaceful, other time turbulent. Occasionally our lives slowly drift being carried by the currents – other times, we are tossed over the rapids headlong into the falls! Every river is different, and every river is beautiful. Although each person’s river is different, they all do the same thing. They run down to the ocean. Yet every river is different. No two rivers ever occupy the same watershed, the same valley. They all draw from their own unique sources and follow their own unique routes.
Each of our lives is unique. No two of us ever live precisely the same journey, the same experiences. Each of us has our own sources of strength, or nourishment. Like rivers, each of us is beautiful — unless we have been spoiled by money or power, greed or lust, addiction or dependency. Yet despite our uniqueness, we all flow to the same sea. The Hebrews thought of the ocean as death, because it was too salty to drink, too salty to use for irrigating fields. In a sense, the ocean is the death of every river.
Our lives too all flow to the same end — death. Yet the water of the rivers does not die. It carries nutrients into the ocean, sustaining the rich life there. Perhaps, when we die, our life experiences nurture and sustain God. I rather like that idea, myself. Because although there are many rivers, there is only one ocean. We call various oceans by different names — the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean — but they are all connected, all at the same level. If we are like rivers, perhaps the ocean is like God. Universal. Endless. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Perhaps, when we die, our individual rivers of life are drawn back into the universal womb of life. Not a sad prospect, all things considered.
Editor’s note: The Rev. Dr. Scott Stewart is the pastor of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church and Brightwater Methodist Church. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-659-9519.