Almost all of Australia’s internal state borders are straight. They mirror the majority of the continent’s flat terrain. Those dashed territorial lines on a map represent the separation of former British colonies into today’s self-governing states.
But if your eye wanders down the map to the south-east corner of the country, you’ll see a line of dashes snaking all the way to the outback of South Australia. This meandering border separates Australia’s two most populous states (and the country’s oldest colonies); Victoria and New South Wales.
The snaked line of dashes on the map isn’t the result of a cartographer’s machine malfunctioning, nor is it because he might have had a beer too many by the time his ruler reached the fourth quadrant of Australia. That serpent of dashes represents the mighty Murray River.
There is something special about the Murray River. Well, there is to me.
As a child being shuttled regularly on the long car journey between the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the Murray signaled something significant whenever it was crossed. On the other side of the Murray River is where laws changed. It’s where football fields transitioned from southern codes to northern. It’s where the darkness of my heart turned to light or possibly back to a deeper black, depending on the direction I was travelling.
The Murray River: from its rapid beginnings in the Snowy Mountains, its slow dawdling across an ancient flat land through multiple attempts of humanity to civilise it into dams and irrigation systems, and then finally the river’s release into the giant mouth of the Southern Ocean. Two and half thousand kilometres of meandering water, making it one of the longest rivers in the world. But to me, in my childhood memories, the Murray is more than just another river.
I’m currently stalking the Murray westward on our family lap around Australia. We’re following the river’s flow west towards South Australia. As the week has unfurled, the Rileys have swum in the huge Lake Hume near the city of Albury, and then watched turtles feeding along the dam wall before being chased away by a sudden rain squall. We’ve splashed about in shallows near the historic township of Corowa, making sure not to swim out into the middle of the river and be dragged too far downstream. We’ve camped along its banks watching sunsets and river cod jumping at insects on dusk.
The other night our daughters were talking about strands of their hair coming loose from their head as they swam. They were mildly concerned they had somehow managed to pollute the river as their hair floated downstream, or possibly even endangered fish. “You’re now a part of the Murray,” I reassured them as we washed the river’s mud off our feet, “And the Murray is a part of you”.
The biblical account of creation tells us*: “God formed humanity from the mud, and then He kissed life into each of them. With this combination of mud and the Creator’s breath they became a living soul.”
Each of us are made from something material and also something supernatural. When we allow ourselves to become physically close to creation we can sometimes hear the quiet voice of the Creator whispering His wishes for our lives.
And so today, the Murray River is letting me cross a border; a border into another Kingdom.
A Kingdom of eternal tomorrows.
(* Bible quote taken from Genesis chapter 2, verse 7)
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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.