It was early in my counselling experience, pre-diagnosis. The session started like most sessions, with prayer seeking Jesus for His direction on the session. I was not disappointed. God took me to a place where I could hear a trickling stream. Upon prompting from my counselor I went toward the sound of the water. I came to a big pool of fresh water. Flowing into this pool was a waterfall. It was a very beautiful place; peaceful. I remember enjoying the sound of the trickling water, feeling so relaxed watching the waterfall. The water, however, looked dark and cold.
It was in this tranquil place that I saw Jesus standing at a distance from me over the water. I heard Him say to me, “Cheryl come, come into the water”.
Fear struck me. I have a fear of water. It is very rare that I ever enter a large body of water. My mind started to race. My fear ruled me. I remember saying to my counselor, “I can’t do this, I am afraid. I can’t swim in that, it’s not safe”. My mind started to imagine myself drowning. I could feel my heart racing. I looked up to Jesus and said, “Why would you ask me to do something you know I am afraid of?” But again He repeated, “Cheryl come, come into the water”. As He said this, His hands gestured to the water. I looked at His face it was so calm and gentle. He seemed genuine, safe.
I stepped into the water towards Him. As I did the water surrounded me and I became submerged in its depth. Something strange happened, I could still breathe. The water didn’t follow the rules I knew, I wasn’t drowning. The water wasn’t taking life from me, it was giving life to me. I felt a peace I had never experienced before; a weightlessness. I was energized. It was beautiful, filled with incredible light. I realised then this was no ordinary river, this was the river of life.
My time in the river of life was very short, in fact it only lasted the length of the counselling session. God showed me something that session, “Cheryl, you can have this all the time in me”. I hadn’t experienced this weightlessness since I was a child. It was short-lived, and it left me the moment I left God’s river. God could see the bondage I was in and the painful journey I was about to take. He was giving me a taste of what it truly meant to be a Christian. What it meant to be His child, living the abundant, burden-free life He promised. I was weighed down with pain, unforgiveness, misconceptions, demonic oppression. I had voices in my head speaking lies that I believed to be truth. I was filled with an incredible anger at God, the church and many close to me. I was arrogant, but extremely fragile. My actions brought harm to myself and others. The pain I felt locked me in a world of darkness. I called myself a Christian, yet I was living a life of bondage. It was far from an abundant life.
Recently God reminded me of this time in the river. It was while I was reflecting on this event that I realised that I was in that place of burden again. Weighed down with the worries of this world. Not enjoying God’s promised abundant life. Distracted by my own disappointments with this life and overwhelmed by the things out of my control. It caused me to ask myself the question, “What is preventing me from living in God’s ‘river of life’?” When I reflected on my time in God’s river, a few things stood out to me:
- I had to choose to not let fear rule me. I had to step out of my own false protection,
- I had to choose to trust and obey God’s leading and walk into the water,
- The rules of this world didn’t apply to the river of life. God is not governed by the laws of this world,
- It was a peaceful place which didn’t have the cares of this world, it was weightless,
- I didn’t do anything to create life. I received life without any striving of my own,
- I was energized, rather then exhausted,
- It was a beautiful place, filled with light.
I could see from this that what was inhibiting me, was:
- My fear; letting lies rule my life,
- My lack of trust and obedience to God,
- My own laws limiting my faith and God’s ability,
- My burdens,
- My foolish belief that I control and give myself life,
- Spending too much time on things God’s not involved in, ie Not living in God, being energized by Him,
- Lack of God’s light in my life.
God’s river of life is something real, not just something I imagined one counselling session. That moment in session God gave me a promise, He showed me a life He wanted to give to me. It was mine to have always. Burden-free, not limited by my own or this worlds laws, life-giving, free from darkness. His desire is that I would go to His river and flourish in all that He has for my life. That I would grow strong in Him. Capable of not just living my life to its fullest, but like all trees being nourished by living water, I would become a refuge and a source of God’s life-giving food to others.
This river is not something that is just available to me. It is a river that God has available to every one of His children. Just as He called me then, He is now calling us all to come into His river. To step outside of our own fleshly restrictions and dive into the fullness of all that He has promised: His abundant life.