Monday 18 January 2010

Floodplain of the soul

floodwater at river derwent bridge colourriver derwent floodplain colour view copy

imageThe River Derwent in East Yorkshire is notorious for flooding, a fact which is all-too obvious from these photographs taken yesterday at Bubwith. As you can see from the second photograph, the whole area of floodplain to the north of the road in the satellite image is currently inundated with water and transformed completely beyond recognition. The embankment resembles an accusing green finger of marooned failure. Fences stand partly submerged like memorials to Canute-like intentions of control and order. Signs prohibiting access and defining exclusive rights are overwhelmed by the trespassing floodwaters.   This is one floodplain which aptly deserves its name.

And if we are to be energised and revitalised by God it seems to me to be imperative that we allow our floodplain of the soul to be just that, an area of our being where we can be overwhelmed by the presence of divine love. This is as much the normal state of our being human as is the Derwent periodically overflowing its banks. A natural and unmodified drainage basin of faith would lead to us experiencing awareness of overflowing grace and being inundated by the presence of God. It is when we seek to divert, engineer and artificially manipulate the flow that we get into difficulties. The storm drains, culverts, canals, barriers and barrages of religion give a false sense of  control and security when it comes to God.

At the same time our covering of the intellectual landscape with vast and continuous built up areas of narrow rationalism disrupts the natural hydrology of grace: these hard, impervious surfaces drastically limit the opportunities for God to seep naturally into our common consciousness.

I think that the mystics understood these tendencies and chose instead to centre themselves in the natural floodplain of the soul. Reading their stories I am struck by how often it is this utter and total overflowing of grace which brings them to life. Far from being something to channel, control or avoid, they are renewed and their faith made fertile by such periodic experiences of godly innundation.  Perhaps the Derwent can teach us a vital lesson about the refreshing of God’s people in the floodplain of the soul.

frozen floodwater of river derwent


  1. Thanks for the very helpful idea of allowing God to refresh by overwhelming the natural flood plain, rather than our trying to control, channel or avoid the flood. Great photos too! Many thanks.

  2. Great photos (as usual), and thoughtful post (as ever)! I suppose for me though I don't really know what that means in practice. I don't think I have built too many things on the plain, but until the rains come i won't really know.
    Re: "Canute-like intentions ofcontrol", I have somewhere in my brain the feeling that poor old canute has been misrepresented. I know he is commonly shown as the foolish controller, but I think I read somewhere that actually he set that scene up precisely to show that despite his power he was as unable to control the sea and god as one of his subjects. his humility misrepresented by memory as pride. Poor chap!

  3. Glad you liked the post Seeker, many thanks for commenting, likewise to Acetate Monkey for stopping by and especially for your honesty. And yes, I absolutely agree with you about poor Cnut but was too tempted by the telling phrase! I really hope that the experience I point to will be a gift for you too as and when the time is right.