“A river happens there.”
So says little
Diamond, the main character in George MacDonald’s classic book “At the
Back of the North Wind.” Diamond has been visiting heaven in his dreams.
When an old friend and tutor asks him: “What happens there?” he gives
this cryptic reply: “A river happens there.”
and writing were tremendously influential for C.S. Lewis. Not only did
Lewis publish a book of reflections and quotations by MacDonald, his
fellow author shows up as the main guide in Lewis’ book “The Great
Divorce.” One of the features common to MacDonald’s and Lewis’ writings
is the ability to translate a biblical worldview into fiction that feeds
and forms the Christian imagination. So it is with the river that runs
through Diamond’s visits to heaven: It’s a rich image of God’s grace.
mention this for two reasons — and not just to recommend MacDonald’s
book. First is the Prophet Ezekiel’s vision, which we read on Tuesday.
Ezekiel sees water flowing out of the temple of the Lord. The temple is a
foreshadowing of Christ’s body, and the water flowing from its right
side — where water and blood will later flow from the pierced side of
Christ on the Cross — is a symbol of His grace and its effects on the
world. Ezekiel wades through the ever deepening water — ankle deep, knee
deep, waist deep — until it becomes a river. The river turns salt water
into fresh water, and nourishes trees that bear new fruit each month
and whose leaves serve for medicine. The vision is a symbol of what will
happen to God’s people — and to each of us — when we allow his grace to
flow into our lives.
Second is the healing of a lame man at the
pool of Bethesda — the third sign that Jesus performs in the Gospel of
John — which we also read on Tuesday. Occasionally the water in the pool
would have some unexpected turbulence. The idea was that it had been
stirred by an angel. The first person into the water afterward would be
This particular man had been ill for 38 years. But every
time the water was stirred up someone else would get to it first. Then
Jesus came by and healed him instantly. The message is clear: Jesus
Himself is the source of living and healing water. He told this to the
Samaritan woman in John 4. Now He shows it to this man — and to all of
us — in John 5.
The Old Testament reading for Monday tells us that
God is doing something new. The Gospels for Monday and Tuesday show
that Jesus Himself is the new thing that God is doing. But the readings
for the rest of the week show us different ways that people refuse and
reject God’s grace. They step out of the river, so to speak, or try to
dam it up. The caution is clear: Each of us is capable of the same
thing. God’s grace is continually offered to us. We can accept it or
The readings this week raise a question for each of us.
Can we say, of our lives, what Diamond said of his visits to heaven: “A
river happens there?” How will we let the river of Christ’s grace flow
into our lives this week and become a source of healing for ourselves