River of Life anal­ogy: Each is unique

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - CHURCH - SCOTT STE­WART Pea Ridge United Methodist and Bright­wa­ter Methodist churches

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 revjstew­art@gmail.com or 479-659-9519.

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