The River of Life

The River of Life
By Amy Raines

Most of us have tasted bad water, like the water I tasted at an RV park in South Carolina at one time. What was that awful smell? Goodness, its coming from the tap! What a foul, polluted smell. Sometimes tap water tastes salty or thick, sometimes it has a chemical aftertaste, or even the stale taste left after the filter has done its job. We are used to bad water.
When I arrived in Glacier National Park last year there was smoke and haze in the air from the forest fire on the east side of the park. We found a campsite without too much trouble - I had made sure to leave early that morning from my home in North Idaho so we would be sure to get a tent site. With four of my kids and my mom with me, we had left in a whirlwind rush, food packed - did we get the pillows? neighbors showed up to milk the goats - ok, all set to go. With just enough money for gas and a tent site for one night, we were set to have an adventure.
We prayed over our 20 year old Suburban as we pulled out of Bonner’s Ferry. We were only two women and four kids, my husband was out of town and could not help us!
After we set up the tent and ate the lunch we had packed, we set off to experience the “going to the sun” road. As we drove down the first fairly level stretch, I looked up and exclaimed about the cliff-like peaks straight ahead. As I craned my neck to see the top of them through the windshield, little did I know I would be driving across the face of those precipices on a road carved out of a sheer cliff, looking down at the stretch of road I was now on, perhaps a half mile below, and watching other cars like ants crawling slowly along.
As the road rose and narrowed, my old car huffed, chuffed and sputtered at the prolonged steep grade, while my kids exclaimed and shrieked as they peered out at the blue air beside us and nothingness for a thousand feet down.
We finally reached Logan Pass where we hoped to go to the visitor center, but as I circled the crowded lot for the 15th time in my gasping old car, unable to find a single unoccupied parking space, I gave it up and headed back down the mountain, praying my car would stay going just long enough to get over the “hump” (the continental divide) so I could just coast the rest of the way down to the campsite. Whatever else happened, I did not want to break down on the top of Logan’s Pass!
Thankfully, the car stayed running and we reached camp with no problem, though it was with trepidation that I turned it off. (Would it start again?)
The next day it actually started with no problem - maybe it just needed a rest!- and we contemplated going up the pass again, as the air was more clear this day and the visibility would be better. As we were reading some of the park info, we realized there was a free park shuttle to take us to the top of the pass. FREE PARK SHUTTLE! we exclaimed. We grabbed some things for lunch and stuffed them into a backpack along with the camera and wasted no time hopping aboard the next shuttle and soon found ourselves at the top of Logan’s Pass, where behind the visitor center there is a trailhead for an easy hike to a hidden lake overlook.
The hike proved to be beautiful, the sun was warm, not hot, like eternal spring in August, and patches of low growing wildflowers were all around us along with a few stunted trees in this high haven near the treeline. The sky was clean, without the haze from yesterday, though the smoke still rose from the fire on the east side of the park, a huge forbidding plume rising over the mountain, mistaken at first for a cumulus cloud until the colored undertones gave it away, sickly pink and grey revealing this cloud’s true origin.
This hike had hundreds of giant wooden steps to climb, not a problem for me but after an hour we were almost on top of the continental divide and my two year old was ready to give up. His inexhaustible energy had been beaten by steps that, for him, came to his waist. “I’m tired. I don’t want to walk!” “Just a little further,” I told him. Our water bottles had been empty for quite some time, except for a few warm, unappetizing swallows. Everyone was thirsty.
We came to a sparkling stream which flowed out of the side of a peak a few hundred yards away.
I don’t say I recommend to do what we did next, and almost surely there are good reasons not to, but we were thirsty and we did it. We filled our water bottles out of that clear flowing, sparking, pristine stream flowing down the from a glacier out of the continental divide. We stood in the warm springtime sun, in August, and drank, and drank. First one sip, then another, and another. The icy coolness gave way to the flavor of the mountain rocks, pure crystalline snows from long ago locked away untouched until the moment of release into this freshet. You could imaging health and youth flowing in, as the ancient minerals worked to energize each and every cell. A prehistoric goodness all but lost was in that water, and we drank our fill, and then some. It was a blast of purity, like water from heaven, water the way it was meant to be.
Our water bottles now full of this delicious drench, we continued the short distance to the lake overlook. As we headed back down the mountain, we passed the stream again and topped off our bottles. As we left the stream behind us, I heard God whisper into my soul, “Whoever drinks this water will thirst again.” And my heart finished, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed the water I give him will become a fountain, welling up to eternal life.” I was awestruck. Do you mean, Lord, that your water is better than this, more pure, more life-giving, that your headwater is the true Source, and this just a weak earthly draught barely reminiscent of the life in your possession? Then, by all means, give me some of this water.
How often I had imagined that scene from John chapter 4, the bucket coming up from that well long ago, full of mossy tasting, reused, maybe even slimy or smelly water. Everyday water. The value of what Jesus offered didn’t seem very impressive when compared to the worst of Earth’s offering, but that day He gave me a new perspective, and on that day my prayer became, “By all means give me some of this water!”
We made it home again after that day, back to the ordinary, back to goats and household tasks, back to hot dry August, but I didn’t forget that He had my water, the water beyond extraordinary, for all of my life, the water he would give me free of charge, exchanging my life for His Life, and the pitiful pleasures of this earth for his unfathomable bounty. Released from dabbling around the same old polluted pond, trying to fill my need, trying to fill my life, released to never thirst again.

If you would like to read the part of the Bible that God spoke to my heart that day, you will find it in John chapter 4, the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.