I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but we have no structured science curriculum for the lower grades. We take science as it happens in life. This weekend we had some great science happenings. We went to the beach Friday evening, and the little hidden beach that we like best has a stream running down to the lake through it. One of our traditional beachgoing endeavors (just for fun) is to try to re-route the stream. Usually it gets away from us, and goes back to flowing pretty much where it was before, but this time we really worked hard and spent some serious time engineering the diversion. There was no one else there to observe, so we were free to work without feeling silly, knowing that other people wonder why in the world we would do such a seemingly pointless thing.
We finally got the original meandering channel dammed up and managed to get enough of a trench dug in the sand to divert the water to a new course. We babysat the stream for about an hour after we finally got it flowing, rebuilding dikes, dredging out shallow places that kept filling up with sand, reinforcing our dam so that the current didn’t sneak back to its old course, and making sure there was enough vertical fall to keep the flow moving. Sometimes things would begin to crumble on all fronts at once and we had to work fast and hard. But finally, we could see that it was flowing faster and getting deeper. When we finally left, we were pleased that the pond behind the dam was going down and the water level in our new stream was finally lower than the surounding sand.
Sunday afternoon we went back, wondering if the stream would be right back where it had been before we started, or whether our rerouting had actually worked this time. It was SO fun to see that it had happily continued in the course we had set. The little streamlet we had left had become a rushing stream, widened out immensely and eroded down over a foot deep into the sand! It had certainly gained momentum since we had left it! There was no trace of the big pond that had collected behind our dam, though the scar of the original creek meandering off to one side was still there, bone dry. We had a good talk about erosion, how quickly it happens when there is a lot of water. We watched how the banks occasionally caved in, to be swept away downstream to the sea, and making the canyon deeper and wider. Obviously, this happens much faster in sand, so it was almost like seeing the genesis of a river in ultra-fast motion.
We were amazed at how much larger and deeper it was, at how fast it was running once the pond full of standing water had been eliminated. But we also know from many past experiences that it doesn’t always happen. Usually we end up leaving soon after we make the new course, and eventually the water breaks through a low spot and runs right back to the original course.
I was thinking about that today, and how much it is like training a child. Proverbs says “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I have read that the word train actually means “to narrow.” That makes sense to me, since the pond, which just spilled over wherever it happened to fall, had to be directed into a narrow channel. And as the water poured through that channel, it deepened and widened to accomodate the increasing water flow. A few days later, after that channel had become established, it would have been very hard to persuade that water to go anywhere else!
Another neat thing was that when we got there, someone had moved the log we had used as a dam for the original stream. But it didn’t even matter. By that time, our new waterway had deepened to the point that it no longer had any tendency to go down the old course. Naturally, if a steam has been allowed to wander on its own, the evidence of its original course will still show for a time, but if no water runs through it, will eventually be worn away.
Granted, when you are training children, sometimes it feels like the banks are caving in all around, and you can’t possibly keep up with all the places that the water is leaking out. Sometimes you despair of ever getting this little stream to stick to its new course, BUT there is an end to that. Thank God. This was an inspiration to me to see that eventually, it will become easier to stay on course, IF we don’t falter in the training.
Isn’t it amazing how God can use the natural things to give us a peek at the spiritual?