Truth like a river

I'm thinking of the old song "I've got a river of life flowing out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors sets the captives free." That is a pretty radical statement. It comes out of Scripture: the river of life flowing out is from John 7:38, and the healings and opening prison doors comes from Isaiah 61 .

But when I sing that song, it doesn't feel radical. Those words have become too familiar. The situations where I remember singing it were lighthearted in tone, a fun tune without thinking about the words. Like one might sing "I've been working on the railroad." You know you don't work on the railroad, you have no ambition to work on the railroad and no guilt for not wanting to work on the railroad, and perhaps don't even know anyone named Dinah, but the song is a fun song to sing.

I remember years ago a worship leader making the surprising statement that we shouldn't sing Christian songs if we just wanted to have fun singing and be a bit silly. We should sing songs like "I've been working on the railroad." When we sing songs about God, it should be because we really mean them. Now I might push back on that statement some today, because I think our relationships with God should involve all our lives, even the lighthearted silly moments (which are not sinful to have). But I think there is a danger in enjoying Christian songs or sayings because they're familiar, without thinking about what they mean.

John 7:38 and Isaiah 61:2 reveal a surprising, startling, awesome truth. Out of me, in me, comes the Spirit of God, who does bring healing and liberty. I'm thinking of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's riveting line: "Bless you prison for being in my life." I'm thinking of healings and resurrections, some which come here and now, some of which we wait for, and our here and now is transformed by the faith to wait, if we accept it.

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