This morning, I had just finished some writing and heard in my spirit the phrase, “downstream thinking.” Immediately, I saw the image of a stream and knew the imagery was the metaphor for something the Lord wanted to say.
A stream bisects our valley. It is called Bear Creek. In our early history, our valley was first called the Bear Creek Valley, not the Rogue Valley as it is commonly noted today. Bear Creek used to be a clear and pristine stream from which first nations people and eventually early settlers would harvest salmon and use it for drinking. It was a trusted water source. Not today. Pollutants from upstream sewage treatment plants, agricultural and livestock waste, homeless camps, and the runoff from city streets have made the water unusable and unsafe for a variety of health reasons.
If a person were to stand in downtown Medford, Oregon, and only interpret the sad condition of Bear Creek from the evidence found in the immediate area, they would make a faulty assessment. To gain a proper perspective they would need to follow the flow of water upstream to find the source of the pollutants and then initiate change at that upstream location to bring change downstream.
Discernment in matters of the Spirit requires that we put on our spiritual waders and start moving upstream. Our immediate circumstances will not always provide the insight we need to know how to effectively pray or intervene to bring about change. The upstream source of downstream pollutants is where the purity and health of an issue are determined. Discovering the source of any issue, whether it be an issue within the history of a family, an individual life, or an institution of culture, is where real change takes place.
Moving away from the limitations of a downstream mindset will involve moving upstream into the history of our families, our communities, and our culture to determine the root cause of our polluted downstream situations. Surprising discoveries will be made as we slosh upstream. Under the direction of God’s Spirit, we will begin to discover the entry points where historic pollution first entered the waters of our lives. These entry points are where our authority in Jesus Christ must be exercised cutting off the permission given to the polluting source. Once this happens the newly redeemed waters from our history will begin to flow into the present-day changing what was once polluted and undesirable spiritual waters into something of beauty, joy, and clarity.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Garris Elkins