River Bottom Theology
I used to live at the mouth of the Fraser River. It made a 1,375 km journey from Mt Robson to my doorstep. This BC waterway is a major player. It provides a liquid highway for commerce and leisure. Below the surface, it discharges 20 million tonnes of sediment into the Pacific, and that's a problem. Left alone, this sediment builds and blocks the river's flow. So dredging is a common sight. The river is raked to remove the debris naturally deposited. If we allowed nature to take its own course, the river's flow is impeded and usefulness is diminished. I look at the river and see my soul's reflection.
Much of our soul’s activity is below the surface. Our souls are in motion - there is a current within. The Spirit of God offers a living flow from the depths of our hearts (John 7:38) This current of the Spirit is intended to burst from the banks of my own spirit and splash grace throughout my living. That’s what Jesus promised, but it is not what we always experience. Why? I carry internal impediments. The motion of my soul collects debris from life. Pollution and unfiltered garbage is collected in the course of my days. Habits which seem harmless, gather like sand bars. But most of all, I am silted with self. The agenda, comforts, ambition, pleasure and glory of self create blockages and islands of worldliness. The Spirit's flow becomes shallow. My soul's power is hampered. Kingdom usefulness is diminished.
I am not describing anything foreign to you. Many times our hearts are heavy, congested with so much litter, that we feel like a muddy river bottom. Our souls need to be dredged. The sludge has to be scooped out and new depths have to be dug. That is the work of God. Only He can reverse the natural order. He sees below the surface and can reach the depths of the heart. This is not an easy process. God is not skimming debris from a pool's surface. There may be struggle and pain in the dredging. But by digging new channels, God frees the movement of His Spirit within us. We flow into usefulness once more.
Since this work is beyond our vision, reach or power, how do we invite the Spirit to unclog our lives? In one word - repentance. Repentance is a recognition that things are not as they should be, or as they could be. It is dis-satisfaction with what is and hope for what is new. Repentance embraces the changes of grace that God holds for us in Christ through the Spirit. And since the conversions that I need are many, the times of repentance are repeated. Repentance invites God to rake the deep places within us. Whatever He does is up to Him. Our part is to be an offering and to surrender soul space dedicated to His purposes. We make this offering to God daily. (Romans 12:1) Like the Fraser, our souls need to be dredged with repetition. Once is not enough.