Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jesus, Flow Like a River -- Dennis Jernigan

He was 30 years old, and had once felt out of control outside of Him, and then experienced being out of control with Him. How could Dennis Jernigan want to be in such a state, and in fact exulting in it as he wrote “Jesus, Flow Like a River”? It had been only a short time since he’d emerged from behind the proverbial curtain, and he was still discovering the clout that his own life’s story could have, even as he discovered how it intersected with God’s. How does one best describe the feeling he was having? It was a sensation that you might have riding in a raft down the rapids of a fast river (like this one shown here), yet not being spilled out of the boat. Perhaps it was an adventure like nothing he had ever imagined before. 

Perhaps Dennis would say 1988 was a ‘watershed’ point in his life, the completion of a break with his past and realization of what his future held. He keeps no secrets about who he was a decade earlier – a homosexual, though struggling with this identity because of his upbringing as a God-believer. With the help of a friend and a musical encounter, Jernigan confronted this part of himself and allowed God to work on him. His subsequent marriage and fatherhood to nine children are well-known, declared parts of him now, too. But, Dennis also shares in his testimony that his decision to share in 1988 his dark past with his wife and church caused a stir among others – like confessions, and healing that continue. The next year, he also discovered for the first time his grandmother’s intercession, through prayer, for him as a child, that his life in music would bless others. So, there was all this emotional torrent of joy rushing over Dennis when he composed “Jesus, Flow…”in 1989. Whether there were other events that spurred his words are not clear, but since DJ has written so much (over 2,200 songs) one could say the ‘raging river’ he describes riding might be a metaphor for the outpouring of musical praise that began professionally at that time. It’s continued for the last two to three decades. Perhaps he also read some of his bible for imagery of rivers – in John 7:38 or Revelation 22:1-2; or Psalms 36:8; 46:4; 78:16; 105:41; or Isaiah 41:18; 43:2; 66:12; or Ezekiel 47:9. If he did, he may have been reminded that God’s life surges like a river through those who seek Him out.  

Dennis Jernigan’s life and music speak for themselves. Or, it’d be more in tune with DJ’s sense of the truth that his life and music speak for God. It’s a personal Dennis-to-God conversation he’s having, if one notices the tense in which “Jesus, Flow Like a River” is written. ‘You’ and ‘Your’ relate that Dennis was addressing Him. If you’ve ever been in a raging river, it’s pretty exciting, capable of causing even the most composed, soft-spoken of us to cry out ‘O God!’ You just might address Him in those most desperate, heart-throbbing moments, when life seems to hang in the balance. Dennis might say that’s the place to stay.

Some biographical information on Dennis Jernigan:
And, see this book:  Giant Killers: Crushing Strongholds , Securing Freedom in Your Life, by Dennis Jernigan. WaterBrook Press, 2005.

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