by Sandy Mayle
The Allegheny River ran through my childhood world.
What I didn’t know, as I splashed about in it, camped beside it, and kayaked on it, was that the Allegheny starts as a small spring in a farmer’s field in northern Pennsylvania – a trickle that widens until people are baptized in it, fishermen pull muskie from it, and kayaks skim it while loaded barges inch along.
In Pittsburgh, the Allegheny joins the Monongahela River to form the Ohio, surging southeast to merge with the Mississippi River and empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The mighty Mississippi grows to some 11 miles wide while hosting at least 260 species of fish, and its watershed covers over a million square miles, reaching people from the Appalachians in the east to the Rockies in the west, and even a bit of Canada.
I wonder… Does that northern spring have any idea what is happening downstream?
In Ezekiel 47, the prophet is shown a vision of the temple in Jerusalem. He follows a trickle of water coming from under the temple wall, which grows ankle-deep, then knee-deep, then waist-deep, until that trickle has become an uncrossable river. And although it flows through desert land, the river nurtures many trees, including all kinds of fruit trees bearing nourishing fruit and healing leaves. It eventually flows into the salty Dead Sea, turning the waters there fresh so that they become filled with many kinds of fish, for “where the river flows everything will live” (v. 9 NIV).
Christ’s death and resurrection just outside Jerusalem became a spring of Living Water that flowed first a trickle at Pentecost in Jerusalem, then knee-deep through Judea, waist-deep through Samaria, and finally widening to cover the whole earth (Acts 1:8).
This same Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me… streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit” (John 7:37-39 NIV).
Every true believer in Jesus Christ becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), Who fills us and flows from us. It simply happens when we’re temples, but not because of us. It’s not our river; it’s totally God’s. He flows out; He swells and surges; He brings the dead to life and makes the living to bear fruit and causes the fruit to nourish and sustain others. Our role and our concern are simply to be the temple of the Spirit.
Although you cannot see it, do you realize the Spirit is flowing from you into the Dead Sea of your world? Sometimes as the years go by we can become depressed by questions that hound us. “What have I accomplished on this earth? I’ve served Christ… but has it made any difference? If only I’d been more useful, seen more fruit from my labor…”
“A river reaches places which its source never knows,” wrote Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest. “And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives appear to be. We have nothing to do with the outflow – “This is the work of God, that you believe…” (John 6:29). God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.
As a writer, I seldom find out about what happens “downstream.” Whether you’re a Bible study leader or a mentor or a parent or grandparent or anyone who follows Jesus, you probably don’t, either. None of us knows where the Spirit will bear our witness or how He will work far out of our sight and well beyond our reach. It’s not our business; it’s His. Ours is to focus on just being His temple. Enough to know that “our labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58 NIV) and to “not become weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9 NIV).
One day we will see all that Christ has done downstream. In the meantime, the life-giving Spirit flows on, soaking into dried spirits, filling abandoned hearts, buoying stranded hopes, spawning joy and life.
And we didn’t – we couldn’t – do anything to make it happen. We just templed the Holy Spirit of God and, like a spring in a farmer’s field, out He flowed.
Downstream, on and on.
Sandy is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She loves words, nature, and solitary retreats. Her newest venture is mentoring in the equine therapy program at a nearby horse ranch. She and her husband, Dave, have three sons and three grandchildren.