Going with the Flow {Lessons on Quarantine from the Mississippi River}

Jay gave me this print for Christmas, and just yesterday I framed it. It’s the history of the routes of the Mississippi River along the banks of Tennessee and Mississippi. You see, before the Corps of Engineers set an unchanging path for the mighty river, it used to have its way with the silty bottomland. It would change course over the years, depending I suppose on the water volume, and the way the land would give way to its force. I like to imagine the river stretching her legs after a long run, or reaching for new places to give her bounty.

Of course the changing path was not so good for the people settled along the river. And so the Army with their brilliant civil engineers created a way for the people to be safe; for the river to be predictable. 

I first came across this print through Elizabeth Gilbert’s Instagram feed, and I thought, man, that’ll preach. In so many ways! I need this on my wall! And now it is.

I wonder how it speaks to you in this season… because it seems to me, for the first time in a generation, the corps of engineers has been furloughed, and the river is not overly governed by a Schedule. Not required to dress up nice and commute in traffic and take the kids four places tonight. Sure, there are plenty of other demands, and sure, we are banked into our homes, and waiting fo the restrictions to lift. But I think we can all agree that the constraints of the river banks are different, that the river’s path has shifted.

I wonder if these lessons of going with the flow are setting us in right relationship to the river. It’s always been bigger than us. The way nature intended, man doesn’t get to tell her where to go just so he can be safe.

I wonder if we’re learning how to live (safe enough, free, well, untethered, holding loosely) even when the river is unpredictable. 

I wonder if some of these feelings we can’t quite name have to do with the changing course of the river. Getting lost in a large body of moving water can be disorienting, after all. Water in itself is hard to pin down, hard to hold in your hand long enough to understand it. A friend and I have been joking that we “go with the flow” and “roll with it” so much that we’re sea sick. (That’s what this feeling is!)

Unmanned banks are not necessarily safe. But there’s some goodness in there, too.

So, how’s your river? How’s the water flow; how’s your source? What do the banks of your river look like? What changes have you noticed, and which ones do you want to keep? What’s the form and function of your river? What is she trying to say to you? Where does she seem to want to go? What is she reaching out to provide for you and yours? How might you live in her and tend her well?

Are you fighting the current, or laying back into it? Do you trust the river? Are you open to receive from her? Are you afraid of her? Are there new places she wants to take you, and will you let her?  


P.S. For me, a reference to water is a reference to Spirit. The Holy Spirit within my Spirit, the truest part of me in communion with God. The nourishing, strong, life-giving, mothering heart of God. There is a River whose streams make glad the city of God…

A pure stream flows—never to be cut off—  

bringing joy to the city where God makes His home,  

the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live. Psalm 46:4


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