Life-Giving River

Beneath our desert of daily life is a rejuvenating life source



Today when someone says Amazon, most think of the gargantuan retailer with tributaries throughout the world. But of course it’s named after the Amazon River in South America, the world’s second longest river with 1,000 tributaries fertilizing Earth’s largest drainage basin. During the dry season, the Amazon’s width reaches a mile across, but during the flooding rains it can be 30 miles wide, harboring over 5,000 species of fish, 9-foot dolphins, 33-foot pythons, and 50-foot caimans of the alligator family.

Within each of us is a river of similar magnificence. A physiologist might think that I refer to the human circulatory system, which, if we were to lay out an adult’s arteries, capillaries, and veins end to end, extend 60,000 miles—more than twice around the Earth. This amazing river, circulated by a sleepless, tireless heart muscle, keeps our unbelievably diverse microbiome alive and well.

Believe it or not, deserts like the Sahara present evidence beneath them of ancient river beds and enormous aquifers of water embedded in sandstone, extracted only with much effort. For example, Jacob’s Well, circa 1800 B.C. in the Canaanite Desert, was dug 120 feet by sweat of brow and hand shovels until fresh, clean water bubbled up from seemingly nowhere.

A drive through miles of hot desert, where few shrubs and cacti offer little of interest, can stupefy after a few miles. Most of us older folks sooner or later have a similar feeling about life passing us by. We’ve seen it all and now experience “nothing new under the sun” (Eccles. 1:9), to the point of feeling a restless boredom. Our life landscape has become a desert wasteland, full of nettlesome tasks and boring repetitions: the same old rituals of shower, shave, dress, breakfast, lunch, nap, dinner, a movie, then sleep. If we can afford it, we dine out and take faraway vacations to breakup the monotony. But after a while, even those become a dull routine. The swiftly passing years impart the odd feeling we’ve been left behind to futilely search for elusive satisfaction in an endless, arid valley.

But beneath our desert of daily life is a rejuvenating life source. Each of us in whom God’s grace is active carries an aquifer of ultra-pure water ready to quench our spiritual thirst. In baptism we were “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Now if we’ll only dig beneath our superficial life of mere satiety, we’ll reach the real source of life.

The poor in spirit will find encouragement in Scripture to persevere.

By your perseverance you will save your souls (Luke 21:19).

Their perseverance shall bubble up a perpetual source of living water, as Jesus promised.

For whoever comes to Me will never thirst (John 6:35).

For whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water, welling up to eternal life (John 4:14).

 As Jacob was favored by God with a wellspring of abundance, so each of us can be.

You will be satisfied in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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