St. Johns River flowing through Jacksonville at night Image courtesy of Don Dearing on

St. Johns River flowing through Jacksonville at night
Image courtesy of Don Dearing on

Did you know the vast majority of rivers in the world flow from north to south? This is almost a freaky weird statistic, molding our distinction about north being on top of the world. King of the hill. For goodness sakes, even Santa lives up there!

I think the misnomer about which way rivers are “supposed” to flow comes about partially because our minds are conditioned to believe, when considering a map, that north is up(hill) and south is down(hill). Kinda like the drip drip drip of the coffee pot.

These north-to-south flowing rivers do follow a basic rule of plumbing. There are actually 3 basic rules of plumbing. Don’t know them? The 3 rules of plumbing: (1) hot’s on the left, cold’s on the right, (2) stuff, like waste, or sewage (a nice way of putting it) doesn’t flow uphill, and (3) payday is Friday. Which rule do the rivers follow? Ummm, it’s #2.

In fact, all rivers follow the second rule of plumbing, even those that flow backward. Of the rivers that flow backward, or south to north, the Nile River is the most famous, the world’s longest an incredible distance of 4,150 miles!

Locally, in Florida, the St. Johns River flows backwards. It’s been long postulated that the St. Johns flows to the north because Georgia sucks, but that’s just hearsay. Curiously, the  source of the St. Johns lies along State Road 60, just west of Vero Beach (where I grew up), and it’s mouth is in Jacksonville, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Yep, Jax is where I live now. So this quiet, southern river is somewhat of a metaphor of life to me, you know, like from “As You Like It”…

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances” William Shakespeare

And so in many ways on the stage of life, what we project comes back around. Life, I guess, sort of flows backward too – what we cast out, be it love, joy, a pleasant demeanor, or whatever, what we bring to the table comes back to us in many ways just like casting a fishing pole upstream into the river.

This is the chapter of the long-term impact of our decisions and how they help to determine our destiny, the conditioning of our heart, and what’s going to happen here in this life. Have you ever heard of The Butterfly Effect? It basically states that small changes in initial conditions, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, can have global consequences even on weather patterns. In the same way, Andy Andrews showed us specific examples of how the actions of people have shaped history. The scientific community embraced this as “The Law Of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.” This happens in nature, and in life.

The St. Johns River didn’t just up and decide one day that it was going to flow to the north. A long history of sea-level fluctuations carved the shoreline of the Florida peninsula, leaving a trough along the eastern seaboard that sloped ever so slightly in a northerly direction. Within the trough, rainwater collects, and follows that second rule of plumbing – it has to go somewhere, so it flows downhill under the force of gravity. Yes, I’m an expert at this!

Can you reflect on a decision in life that had a significant impact on your future? Boy, I surely can. I have 3 adorable grandchildren that stem from a decision that I made decades ago, and that I’m thankful for. Do all of our decisions turn out that way? Not necessarily, there were many painful experiences along the way that also came into play. My faith journey similarly blossomed from a seed that was sown years before, during a storm huddled under a rock with a guy who told me about Jesus that made sense to me for the very first time.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

We reap what we sow, be it good fruit, and in the choices we make. Our compadres are another great example of those who influence us. They all become embedded in our heart, and reflect out from there. Like the river that flows backwards… it didn’t just decide to be that way, the choices and forces of mother nature made it that way. Could that all change one day? Or, could I make decisions today that will change the future, not just for me, but also for my grandchildren, or even for people far away that I don’t even know? Just as importantly, can I make changes that will have the effect of taking my heart back to a better condition when it is hurting? I think so, as long as we’re still players on Shakespeare’s stage of life, there is hope for good old pitter patter.

Recognizing that many of our choices in life affect our heart, what could you change today to put your heart on a better path for tomorrow?

Are there any rivers near your home that “flow backward?”

This post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “The Wellspring Of Life.” You can read more about this book and my other titles by clicking this link.