May 23, 2008 Volume 22, Number 05
A powerful cleansing flow
By Harold Jantz | Special to ChristianWeek
There is a tide in the affairs of men
I live along the Red River and each spring we watch for the hour when the ice begins to move and the river starts cresting with the spring runoff. It is always a spectacular sight to see ice floes breaking, tumbling over one another, crashing into the river bank, at times colliding and piling up against trees lining the river.
Every spring we've come to expect to see some things drift by. One day just after the first large breakup a few weeks ago, there it was: somebody's dock. Some of it lay on top of a large chunk of ice; part of it was suspended in the water. Though thoroughly demolished, it was still recognizable. I don't think a year goes by without a dock or two passing our place.
Spring ice breakup and strong flows of water remind me of what we need from time to time in our lives. Winter ends with a warm sun breaking up the ice and sending a heavier-than-usual volume of water to cleanse the river bed and take away a good deal of the debris that has collected along the banks. The coursing water does a job the river needs.
It's a way of flushing out the mess that has accumulated. We need that too in our lives. We need God's cleansing stream to flow powerfully through our lives from time to time, uprooting what has become an obstruction, tearing away the dead stuff, cleaning out the channels that block His speech to us.
I've grown up on plains where rivers meander. The word "meander" actually derives from the way a stream on a flat plain behaves-it curves back and forth in graceful loops.
Sometimes, however, during high water periods, the stream will cut across two curve bottoms and create an entirely new shortened path. The portion cut off by the change will become an elbow lake. It's the new path I find interesting. One might say it's as though God were suddenly standing in the way and telling us, "I'm taking you in a new direction." We need that too from time to time.
I suppose if there's anything that impresses me about spring breakup it's the sheer energy that's involved. I've watched as huge floes of ice are pushed up against other ice-ice several feet thick, massive and heavy-lifted, turned over, ground up, shoved forward.
There is something very impressive about seeing giant forces of nature at work. But it is equally impressive to see God at work in our world, acting through communities of believers and in individual lives. There are times when we can't help but recognize that God is doing something powerfully important.
When I sense Christ at work in some place, bringing transformation to broken lives, using groups of people to accomplish profound good, I want to join that flow. Such energy has a powerful attraction.
It reminds me of the experience of the early church. Paul and Barnabas travelled to Jerusalem to share the story of the amazing work God had begun among the Gentiles.
Along the way they stopped off to visit with groups of Christians and reported the "conversion of the Gentiles and brought great joy to all the believers." Most importantly, the folks in Jerusalem told themselves they didn't want to place any obstacles in God's path; rather they wanted to join the flow. They recognized God at work. What a spring breakup they joined! We are still bathing in its good consequences.