bear, creek hike, river, blue water, clear water, swim hole, superman, forest, canyon


Starting this spring I’ve been praying and asking God to reveal Himself to me in what He’s made – in His creation. I believe there is a unique connection with Jesus and revelations of the beauty of God that I have yet to see.. and I want to see! I don’t think I’ve “arrived” in any shape or form, but I feel that he is starting to guide my gaze and attention to different characteristics of Him while I spend time in His creation.

River, Dams, and Watersheds

In 2014 there was a documentary released called DamNation that looked into the history, use and impact of dams, as well as their future use, in the USA. It’s an incredibly well-done film and very entertaining, I highly recommend you go watch it! (It’s currently available on Amazon Prime Video!)

A few weeks ago I got together with some friends to watch it for the second time. As we sat outside my friend’s remodeled Airstream tiny-home enjoying the film, I began to see bits and pieces of God as each scene flashed by.

One section that got my attention was the removal of the Elwha Dam and the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in Washington state. There were a handful of before/after clips of the river’s watershed, which has rebuilt itself, after the removal of the dam. I was blown away by how fast the river and it’s surrounding landscape became healthy again.

Imagine This

As I was trying to find a specific clip from this section to share (I never did, unfortunately), I came across this snippet (min – 1:25) from DamNation where one of the narrators, in talking about a healthy river, states that “water is the same as the blood in our bodies – stagnation brings on death.” I thought that was a really cool concept to think about. I can understand what he means when I think back to the times I’ve spent exploring different bodies of water. I’ve come across many stagnant pools of water that were absolutely gross looking. Sometimes it almost seemed as if they were toxic!

Another video that documented the ecosystem connected to the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams show a couple of amazing post dam removal shots of the coastline where the Elwha River reaches the ocean. According to this video, during the lives of the dams the coastline continued to degrade. Slowly it had become barren and rocky, and plant and animal life disappeared. Even certain species up and left the area. However, once the dams were removed and the Elwha became a free-flowing river again, those species came back and the area as a whole began to thrive once again. Check out a clip below of the before and after here, starting at 2:28. (I recommend you pause each photo to take in the details).

Seeing God

So what’s my point?

I’ve been reading through John and remembered the time where Jesus says “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

I’ve often thought, “what does that mean!?” I don’t think I’ve got this fully “unlocked” but I definitely think all this talk about rivers, dams, and watersheds has inspired me to see and understand relationship with Jesus in a deeper way. Maybe there’s something for all of us to discover about God in a river.

Heart Water

Think about water and blood again, both, when they are stagnant bring death. In John 7:38, Jesus is speaking to a culture where it would have been common for people to drink water that had been stagnant due to the dry climate they all lived in. Being able to drink “living water,” such as fresh rain, would have been celebrated culture-wide.

When I read this in light of what happened to the Elwha watershed, I get my own appreciation for the living water Jesus offers. I can see how it brings restoration to everything it touches. The Elwha was once dammed, it was unable to flow freely, in a way it wasn’t completely “living water.” Figuratively speaking, maybe when I live a life believing in Jesus, dams in my heart are removed and I am able to experience the “living water” of a life with God flowing through it.

Let It Flow

Now let’s take another look at “flow.” The living water Jesus gives is something that “flows” like a river. It was amazing to see what happened when the dams were removed from the Elwha and the river began flowing freely again. Tons of sediment that was held back behind the dam got washed downstream restoring the river with it’s removal and coastline with it’s arrival. Logs and boulder got flushed away by torrents of water and the river began carving a new path through the canyon that had previously been flooded by the stagnant reservoir.

When Jesus talks about rivers of living water He is referring to the Holy Spirit . Often I’ve looked at a river wondering what it is about the Holy Spirit that Jesus is trying to show me when He compares the two. I think there is some insight here. Perhaps we could understand this as the Holy Spirit entering our life and flowing through it. As He does, He’s removing things that aren’t so good and carves a new path for our life to follow just as the river did once the dams were removed.

“Flow” is also an important word to those of us who like running rivers. The flow of a river determines whether we have a fun day, a boring day or an outright scary day on the water. Could this also be true of what our lives look like in Christ – determined by the flow of the Holy Spirit in and through us? I’ll let you decide.

Original Design

Furthermore, Jesus specifically said that living water would flow from one’s “heart.” This could also say “inner being,” which has to do with the core of a person or all of who they are; their soul. At the end of the day, the amazing thing that happened in the Elwha River watershed was that after the dams were removed, the river once again became the river that God had originally designed.

This gives way to understanding what it means for rivers of living water flowing from our hearts. Living water wouldn’t flow from us if there was stagnation still within us. So maybe, and finally, this is what Jesus is talking about when we believe in Him – just like the Elwha River, we return to the original glory, beauty, and goodness that God saw in us when He first put breath in our lungs.

Those Who Are Thirsty

All in all, perhaps what Jesus is saying is that all of who we are will flourish when we come to Him and believe in Him. Just like the watershed connected to the Elwha rebounded and is vibrant once again, so will we be when we drink the living water Jesus offers. Where living water flows, abundant life is present.

Whether or not my words and ability to communicate are sufficient enough to bring you into an encounter with God, I do know that real transformation happens when we encounter the Lord for ourselves. With that said, I encourage you to seek God in what He has made, with the faith that He indeed wants to reveal himself to you in it.

How have you encountered God in a river? Add fuel to the fire and let us know below!

I highly recommend you check out the videos I’ve linked (1 & 2) and watch the film!