By the River

Text and art by I. Lilias Trotter

In our northern lands, a watercourse shows us the richest green in the meadow but desert watercourses are quite different. You can guess the channel by the clue that it will be the barest of bare places; sun-bleached stones or a deep-cut gully. But, summer and winter you will find a supply going down to the oasis. Trace that gully upwards and you will probably find a pool in the gravel that shows a bubble now and then. In that pool lies the source of life for the oasis below.

The water begins by grooving a trench at the lowest level and then seeks to make it lower still, carving out a ravine of ever-deepening emptiness. But the last sweep of the ravine sends it forth to the glory of its mission – thousands and thousands of palm trees waiting for the treasure the ravine has brought down to it – the water of life.

So with ourselves; instead of a life of conscious power, ours will probably be, if he is going to do any deep work in us or through us, a path of humiliation and emptiness where no flesh may glory in his presence. Instead of the sense of power, there comes only more and more the sense of insufficiency; for in the spiritual, as in the natural, if you want to seek for water, look in the very lowest place you can find… nothing to glory in at all except that one, wonderful glory of bearing the life-giving water. ‘Death worketh in us but life in you’, is the message of the watercourses.


The story of the living waters in Ezekiel 47 is lighting up these days… Two things about the outflow are so marked in God’s dealings with us just now; it came from under the altar and under the threshold, the lowest of low places – the vision of Calvary in the place of the dust. These two conditions always mark the outflow of God’s power.


I have just found out that the bride’s words in the Song of Solomon, ‘the rose of Sharon’, are rendered in the Revised ‘the autumn crocus’. It is the snowdrop, as it were, of these lands, breaking out of the hard, dry ground and laughing at the barrenness of everything around in its faith that the rains are coming, when there is yet not a cloud to be seen. Such a picture of the church of the Firstborn…


Life is grandly simple when we reach that point, when the spirit of calculating results and consequences has been left behind and when God himself, and no mere experience, is our exceeding great reward.