The images of flowing water and being washed clean dominate the scriptures, but one in particular is my favorite. Revelation paints a picture of a river rushing down from God’s throne through the roots of the tree of life to cleanse the world of a great curse. That image has always fired my imagination, and I sometimes can almost feel the water rushing through me carrying away every trace of unwanted filth.
There’s another image that often troubles me when I think of the great river, an ugly one not specifically painted in Revelation but one nevertheless seen in the behavior of mankind from the garden to now. It’s a person, unrecognizable under layers of grime, half buried in thick heavy clay. This person, upon seeing the flood coming, instead of rejoicing in the power that can free them from the mud and grime, begins to frantically use globs of their muddy trap to build a wall to block the water, growing dirtier and sinking deeper in the mire with every handful while salvation flows mere inches away.
In a way it’s an understandable reaction. We tend to be terrified of power held outside of ourselves, and our terror focuses our efforts on desperate self-preservation rather than reason. Perhaps, in the physical world, there is purpose in such a reaction, but spiritually it makes no sense. Christ’s sacrifice offers freedom from the mire of uncertainty and fear, a return to the purity of our origin and connection, peace unreachable from the muddy banks of human opinions and demands. Clinging to anything stemming from human concerns builds a wall between us and that cleansing, life-bringing flood.