the river of life

Nov 28, 2020

“The angel showed me the river of life…”
Apocolypse 22:1

“This river is love.
but a love that does not arise in the human heart.
This river is life
but a life that does not flow from the human heart.
That is because this river,
this energy,
is wholly other:
it is the self-opening of God.
“The Wellspring of Worship. Jean Corbon

Ko Waitaki te awa.

I was born in a small town on the south bank of South Island’s Waitaki River. My maternal ancestors worked the land just south of the river and my father’s parents and grandparents farmed just to the north.

The Waitaki is my river.

The Waitaki and the other big Canterbury rivers are uniquely braided and the Canterbury plains owe their existence to these meandering waterways which, over a few million years, have spread mountain shingle across the region forming the land that my family call home.

A few decades ago I left this home and in the years since have lived with many other rivers, each of them providing a home and a life to the ancestors of many other families.

I like the image of the river.

Rivers serve to bring life-giving waters to otherwise barren land. Rivers are on the move and water that is not moving with the current soon stagnates.

While some rivers are deep and fast-flowing in an unwavering channel through valleys and across countryside, the braided Canterbury rivers are changeable flowing deep and wide after heavy rainfall and trickling in every direction through a summer drought.

I’m especially fond of these braided rivers of my home since they seem to mirror my own life: somedays flooded, other days drought-ridden, sometimes deep, other times shallow, now with the flow towards a clear goal, and in the next moment trying to trickle across dry stones or even twisting to turn upstream against the current.

The river is life.

And it seems significant that I was baptised in a small town newly-constructed on the Waitaki as a home for those who would build the dams to harness the energy of the river to provide power for the people.

So the image gets even better. God is like the river, and God is my higher power.


You might like to:

  • spend time today pondering the image of the river, perhaps remembering a river that has been significant for you, or staying with a thought that came to you as you read this reflection.
  • share a comment offering your own thought or reflection. Many people comment that they are encouraged by what others share on these pages. Thanks for the great response in comments yesterday providing inspiration for many.
  • send the initials of those you would like FFF readers to remember in prayer to


    • Thank you. That was beautiful.

    • Thank you for the link!

    • Thank you Althea, for the link to a beautiful song ❣️

  1. This made me think of all the water, life giving scourges from childhood to old age – the ocean was a scourge of fun- being in it swimming, being on it sailing, the living on a river with a few of the ocean and now it’s the exercising/swimming in water that keeps me healthy. God is in everything, we are grateful for his waters.

  2. With God as the River and we are the water, may we go with the flow. When we break the banks of the river, we become a problem for everyone.

  3. With God as the River and we are the water, may we go with the flow. When we break the banks of the river, we become a problem for everyone.

  4. “The river flows
    From the mountains to the sea
    I am the river,
    The river is me” ……

    The Whanganui River is of huge importance to the iwi, it is their ancestral river, their arterial highland and a source of physical and spiritual sustenance.

    Whanganui is my hometown and the river means everything to me – it mirrors calmness and peace and the strength of uncertainty and the challenges of life.
    The Whanganui River is unending and inextinguishable … it is the holiness of the Spirit, the flowing and living life that contains me and unites me forever to the people and all of nature.

    Thank you for your compelling imagery of the ‘river of life’, Father John. Your amazing photograph and reflection, depth of emotion and the meaning of the content were awe-inspiring and allowed me to ‘hear my own thoughts’.

    Thank you for uniting us all again in prayer on this beautiful springtime day.


  5. Yesterday I spent the day helping a class of five special needs children including my granddaughtet. It was EOTC week. We toasted marshmallows by the Hutt river. There were many other groups of children with many types of learning abilities. After reading your reflection today John it has made me think that the river is there for all of us. It doesn’t discriminate.

  6. I just loved the clarity of your analogy. Great food for thought. Thank you fr John

  7. Lovely reflection this morning Fr John. I enjoyed the u-tube song ‘The river’. Thanks for sharing Althea. It also reminded me that Jesus was baptised in a river and the connection between water and life. We are so blessed to have many wonderful rivers in New Zealand. ‘Lord, I need to meet you there’.

    Last month we spent a few days travelling along the Darling from Wilcannia to Wentworth. In that country the river is sacred not just to the aboriginals. The joy of seeing it running again talks to me of hope and promise, and finally of gratitude.

  9. The river of life and the unexpected go hand in hand. The Author of Life specializes in the unexpected, and that is the kind of wonder we can enjoy amidst chaos.
    Praise The Lord.

  10. I was sitting by the ocean. No longer can I walk owing to bone cancer and still sin.
    Feeling disappointed with my self I looked at the sea at Mangawhai and was aware of God’s Love being deeper than the ocean higher than the sky wider than the horizon.
    I imagined God saying to me ‘You are like that Gull flying high and away from the Ocean of My Love.Remember, you need to dive deep into Me for Sustainance .

  11. Thank you for the message! Feel so good after reading about the image of river, especially when one is surrounded by concrete buildings.
    By the way, yesterday night, I too had a chance to be near water, an artificial one though, created as part of city beautification 🙂
    And thank you, Althea, for sharing the link of a beautiful song ❣️

  12. Once again we are grateful to you John for setting our minds down a different path, Your Imagery of the ‘ River of life ‘ so powerful and beautiful giving us so many thoughts to talk about, once from the top of little Mt Peel seeing the wonder of the Braided Raikia River stretching for ever so life giving to so many,then reading the letters of others with different ideas, the song too very thought provoking thank you all.

  13. It depends on how the water is harnessed. It can be constructive & it can be very destructive. A bit like our lives at times, wanting to do everything right, but at times entering a whirlpool, causing problems. Hope it makes sense

  14. Thank you Fr John for your inspiring message this morning. As I sit in my room at Cheviot Rest Home gazing out to the hills I feel at peace and greatly inspired by your message and the comments and music of others. It is like being doubly blessed when our gifts and talents are shared by and with others. May you all be richly blessed for this healing ministry. A wonderful way to start another day of recuperation and rest.

  15. I remembered something I wrote a few years ago here in Norway:
    Åstad, 25th June 2012

    We hear the falls, after rains.
    A modest thing, we would call a beck, a burn,
    Not insisting on its name even, here Stokker, there Nes
    And a few short miles from the tarn to the tides,
    Describing the affair of a river’s description
    As rivers do, dropping from ice and summer showers,
    From crags and pines,
    Oozing first from mist, from moss and mud among slight, shading trees,
    Feeding the mallard who have eggs for the mink,
    Slipping by roots and ridges
    Pausing by shallow pond
    Then tumbling down rocks and pools,
    Lively fresh for its ancient stones
    Conversing cheerfully with the dipper
    Making a green vale here near our house
    Over weir, through culvert, under bridge
    Running quietly along, twisting, then straight, following the flat land to the bay.
    With reed and weed,
    Home of the small fish, frog and newt,
    Occasion for grey heron.
    Under bridge, past meadow, through garden,
    Looking up at the cloud through veils of willow
    Water peaty brown, sparkling by the way, by the King’s leafy high road.
    And tempting sea trout to roam
    Bled briny brackish by the bay.

    You flowed this way when ancient kings
    Fought for the land and its souls,
    Saw in amongst here
    For spotless Mary stone churches raised
    For earthly kings to pillage.
    Witness still the One to save,
    Pouring out for all.
    Flow humble river, flaunt for us forgotten faith.


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