Kingdom life requires that we enter into life as the King has decreed. God in his personhood holds a space and declares a way that life is to be and comes about, and it is as we enter into this way that we begin to experience kingdom living.
Too many times though, we mistake the Kingdom way for nice platitudes or rules and regulations. It is very easy to miss the heart of the kingdom and when we do this, we miss out on the legacy of the kingdom in our own lives.
The best way that I can describe it is that the kingdom of God is like a might river. The waters are clean and cool, refreshing and energizing. These waters run through many lands, past many peoples, nourishing the nations. These living waters clean us, restore us, heal us. These waters wash away the grit and grime of our lives. In these waters shame and guilt are removed.
Keep in mind though, we have a few choices about this mighty river. When we first come upon this river we view it as from a distance. We notice its speed and its volume. We are both drawn to it and intuitively afraid of it. We want to move closer and yet we are unsure. We know that the river will challenge us and change us. “Do we really want this?” is the question our hearts ask.
Yet we perceive that the river is asking us and inviting us to enter into its life. And equally so, astonishingly so, the river is asking if it might become a part of our life. “May I flow through your being?” the river of life asks.
Now imagine that you are a farmer with land that you must tend to and care for. Your land must produce crops to feed your family throughout the year and for cash crops to sustain many other parts of your life. Yet imagine that you had no understanding of water. What if you looked only to the land and did not take into account the need for moisture?
And imagine that the keeper of the river came to you and said, “I want to put a waterway through your land for the refreshment of the inhabitants of the village down the valley.” And all you could think of is the land you would lose in the process. Imagine that in your mind’s eye all you could see was the loss of land, the less available area to grow your crops, and the audacity of the keeper of the river to even ask you to give up a portion of your land for others you don’t even know.
But the keeper of the river knows something this farmer does not know. The keeper of the river knows the secret of generosity and the power of entering into something bigger and stronger than ourselves. The keeper of the river knows that when we allow the river of life to flow through our land that we ourselves will be watered.
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
Some of us are this fearful farmer. We know we have land and we know that we must live from this land, and yet we have not invited nor allowed the land to be taken up by the river of life. We are, in the core of our being, afraid and stingy, struggling to hold on to every bit that we have; we do not perceive that in our stinginess our land will ultimately become useless.
In contrast, the farmers who say yes to the river of life, they come to find that their own land flourishes in the presence and the saturation of the river flowing through. New life springs up beside the river, shade trees grow, birds come to nest, fish are available any time of year, and the land takes on a new glow and growth as the land wicks up the water that flows through.
Other farmers want the river but want to stop its flow. “Why should all that good water go to those he does not know?” they think. But the farmer that is stingy with the river will find himself flooded out and ultimately stagnant. A good river, a healthy river, is one that keeps flowing. The river of life is not ours to contain or manage (this may be why many avoid it). A healthy river is one that is given room and welcomed and gleaned from, entered into, and allowed on its way. We are all touched by the river but we do not own it.
This land is your heart and mind and life, you are the farmer, and the river is the kingdom of God.
This Kingdom of God wants to flow through your life and on out to others. It is not something you can control and it is not something you can own. There is indeed an element of danger to the river. It will cleanse you. It will challenge you. It will change you. The landscape of your heart and mind and life cannot help but be changed by the river of life, and still “May I flow through you?” He asks.
When we say, “Yes.” our life is over time taken up by more and more of the river. Counterintuitively we give over more and more of our land to the keeper of the river. The refreshment coming from this river, the satisfaction of river living, is like nothing we have ever experienced before, and before long we realize that all the land that we own, our entire heart and mind and life, is taken up with this river of life.
We enter into the river of life. We become one with the river. We learn to swim in the river and under the water and we come to find that we can breath even easier there. The river is in us and we are in the river.
And as we join into river life the beauty within the river surprises us. At the bottom of the river are jewels and stones of astonishing array. All colours of the rainbow are represented, and then some. We take giant gulps of river water, expecting to drown we instead find strength and resilience, peace and joy like never imagined. To think we were once afraid of this river!
And bit by bit we bring every single thing of who we are into river life. Our time, our skills, our resources, our money, our home, our focus, our very life is invested in and upheld by this river of life. And the river breathes to us, “Thank you for joining me. Thank you for letting me flow through you.”
For the river knows that it is as we give our life away that we will truly find it. The river knows that only as we act in bold extravagant generosity that the world is healed, refreshed, watered, made new. Bold extravagant generosity, after all, is the nature of God, “For God so loved the world that he gave.” John 3:16a.
And only as we enter into this generosity with everything of who we are will we ever receive and experience true kingdom life and genuinely know the King of Kings. We must enter into the river of life. We must leave our shoes at the side and forsake the building of our lives unto ourselves. We open our lives to the flow of the river through us. We cannot control it. We cannot manage it. Yet we live it.
The river needs land to flow through, will you make your land available?