“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life… On either side of the river is the tree of life with its 12 kinds of fruit.” Revelation 22
Rivers provide life. They carry life down stream and nurture life within and around. Spring fed creeks that run through the desert in Anza-Borrego State Park have trees that grow alongside them, even while the landscape around them is covered in cactus and creosote.
Rivers bring life when they flood their banks depositing new topsoil as waters recede. Rivers bring life when they change their course, leaving behind in dry beds the remnants of a rich and diverse ecosystem that can sustain different kinds of life. Rivers are wild and humans have tried to control their courses, their banks and the life within them for millennia. Sometimes to our detriment and sometimes to our benefit: sometimes both.
The river appears at the beginning of creation and at its fulfillment. It is the source of God’s refreshment to us. The river is the gift God gives to pour life into our world. Without this river our life cannot be sustained now nor into the future, even the future beyond. Rivers run dry because we take more than they supply. Rivers flow with contaminated water because people are careless and ignorant; they are polluted with oil, run off from pesticides, petroleum fertilizers, cleaners, etc.
Next time you turn on the tap, flush a toilet, or take a shower, remember the river that watered God’s garden, remember the river that is a vision of the promised future of fulfillment in the city of God. It is the same water.