No Water Metaphors!
Above is a picture of the James River similar to one that I took on one of my many, sanity saving, bike rides (the one I took was too big to upload). I stopped riding to just stand there, wind blowing briskly in my face, and look out at this mighty river for a moment.
Something about moving water has always captured my attention. I’ve always found it very soothing and somewhat mesmerizing to sit next to a river or stream, and often find that I feel God’s presence most acutely there.
And as I was standing over this great river I was thinking about how it reminded me of God in a way, and then I was struck with the phrase, no water metaphors!
This might seem an odd thing to be struck by, so let me explain…
Last summer I had the privilege of participating in the Urban Doxology Songwriting Internship here in Richmond Virginia (the reason I ended up here in the first place). This internship was started about ten years ago by a man named David Bailey, who had a dream of bringing college aged young adults into an urban setting and teaching them how to write more urban sounding, interesting worship music.
So I was here with about six others relatively close to my age, and as we began to learn about race, reconciliation and songwriting, one of the things they pounded into us from the get-go was NO WATER METAPHORS!
That is to say, we were not allowed to use water as a metaphor in any of the songs we were writing. Why? Well, because it’s just a little bit overdone in the world of worship music. And we were trying to write new, creative and interesting songs for the Church.
So, here I am, standing over the James River and reprimanding myself for using it as a metaphor for God… All I could do is laugh at myself!
It was a funny moment, but as I sit here thinking about it now, I think that we all have certain metaphors and imagery in our own minds about God. Because that’s really the only way that we can process a being so beyond our limited six senses!
I think it’s also something seen commonly in scripture, especially in the Psalms.
Some frequently used metaphors and imagery in the psalms are…
These words used to describe God were ones that the writer thought their audience would connect strongly with and help them understand the nature and character of God by comparing him with things they are familiar with!
And I think these metaphors from the Psalms are still very powerful today, but I do believe that we also have the freedom to create our own metaphors to describe how we experience God.
For me, I would say that I experience God like fresh, rushing water.
His Spirit is like a clear stream. Constantly in motion, never static, but at the same time never changing. I’ll never go to the stream and find that it is filled with vinegar instead of water. It’s always refreshing, but to hear it clearly I usually have to walk into the woods, away from the noise of life.
I’ll still try to avoid using water metaphors in my song writing, but using metaphors like this really helps me to think about God in a more concrete way, and I would encourage you to think about what metaphors and imagery might help you connect more deeply with God!
The Lord is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.He makes me lie down
in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
I lack nothing.