When I regularly went tramping on the edges of the Mackenzie Country and in the Ashburton Lakes / Upper Rakaia area I checked river levels frequently so that I knew how rivers behaved and at what time it may be safe to cross them. I was amazed at how in severe weather events river levels could rise so dramatically. Many braided rivers in the Canterbury High Country can be crossed on most days of the year, but it is on those really rainy days that rivers turn into a raging torrent.
Recent flooding in much of Canterbury reminded me again of this constant vigilance with regard to rivers. What I have found interesting was that it was in particular the short rivers that spring from the Canterbury foothills that experienced such high flows. Other rivers, such as the Rakaia, which carry much of their water from further west in the mountains, did not have record flows.
The rivers shape this landscape, determine local eco-systems, and support the economy. They give life to this area, but also at times are a threat.
When we read the Psalms there is a similar tension between the life-giving and destructive force of water. Water is often seen as a metaphor for the good and the troubles that befall us in our life and in which we turn to God.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1–3
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. Psalm 42:1
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. Psalm 32:6
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters, the floods engulf me. Psalm 69:1–2
Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters. Psalm 144:7