I like to go for walks along our local river when I can. Although the main path is popular with dog walkers and cyclists, there are muddy tracks that you can take down through the trees to the water. It’s a different world, peaceful, nature’s place.
On one of my visits it struck me that life is like a river, carrying us each to our individual destiny.
It starts small, a few trickles from raindrop decisions, gathering together to make a stream, gathering other streams, other choices, until before you know it, it feels like a flow of some significant size, it feels like it is going somewhere.
Exactly where is not always clear. For some people their destiny is clearly in sight, for others it is half glimpsed through trees or a distant summer haze. For many it is altogether unseen, still beyond numerous twists and bends. Yet, like a river, our lives naturally flow towards them.
Reaching that ultimate destination involves changes in the state of our lives. Flow can be tranquill, slow and meandering on level ground, yet still moving inexorably towards where it needs to go. Or it can be smooth and and fast flowing down a slope. Put a rock, or a problem, in the way and you get turbulence, in life, as in water. Both simply flow over or around it, carrying onwards, the turbulence easing downstream. Bigger rocks force a greater change in direction, sending us in small loops around boulders, greater loops around mountains. Sometimes obstacles are absences rather than blockages. A lack of knowledge or the loss of a loved one can make small dips or huge valleys to fill before we can move on. Sometimes both lives and rivers can plunge into darkness, travelling underground for a time. But, the flow continues onwards, always naturally turning again to where destiny lies.
As with our lives, each raindrop, stream, slope and obstacle shapes the size and speed and path of a river, including the exact point where they join the sea. Their precise destiny is not set at the start, it is defined in part by the journey itself. But they will join the sea. It is the nature of rivers, their purpose, to return water to its source so that it can continue in the great water cycle that gives life to our planet.
Rivers cannot see the sea, they do not know what it is they move towards, which part of the sea they will join, or how important what they are doing is in the greater scheme of things. And yet they get there, for the most part unaided. Rivers flow naturally to their destination, following the steady pull of gravity. They do not need the man-made engineering of canals and constant hard work at locks to get there. They simply move downhill towards the sea. Following their nature, not fighting against it.
Perhaps we all need to recognise our own river of life. To cease the effort to move against our nature and instead follow the steady pull of our values, even if we cannot see where they are taking us yet. To trust that they will move us naturally towards where we are meant to be. And if we find ourselves on the precipice of brand new opportunities, perhaps we need to gather our courage, jump down that spectacular waterfall and trust that there will be a deep pool to catch us.
Perhaps we just need to follow the tug of what is important to each of us to find our own dreams, our own purpose.