Summary: If we do not share our faith we will not truly learn it. If we take nothing in we will go dry. Truly refreshing spirituality involves both learning and sharing the truth.
A few weeks ago, as the hot weather season got into full swing, I remembered something I had not done to prepare for the season. Last summer we had bought a big plastic garbage container and had set it outside, next to the air conditioner compressor, and I had run the exhaust hose into it in order to catch all the water that had been condensed by the air conditioning system. If you have a central air conditioning system, or even if you depend on window units, you know that when they run, especially in our humid Washington summers, they take a tremendous amount of water out of the air. And it has to go somewhere, usually dripping down your wall someplace, or, in the case of my system, just flowing out allover the patio.
And so we said last summer, let’s collect this water. It will not only save a mess on the patio, it will also allow us to recycle the water and use it to water vegetables and flowers in the garden. And so last summer the hose, the garbage can, and water collection.
Well, once the air conditioning season was over, I just forgot all about it and I did nothing to empty the can or clean it out. I just left it there. And of course this year we did not think about it and we just let the air conditioner run until one Monday morning I thought about it and went to inspect.
When I lifted the lid on that water storage can, well, words fail me to describe what I saw. It was the most awesome, sickening, slimy, gummy, smelly, obnoxious, malodorous mess you can imagine. Green here, orange there, a kind of crust floating on top, a few dead bugs and something that looked as though if I weren’t careful it might wake up and do beastly things. It was horrible. Just horrible.
And so of course I began to dip this stuff out. Don’t tell my wife that I poured it on the tomatoes, because I don’t much like tomatoes anyway and I figured that however bad this stuff may be it can’t make tomatoes any worse than they already are, and I gradually got all the slimy water out and away.
But then I made another mistake. I didn’t put the hose back in the can. I emptied the can of its old accumulation, but I did not arrange to put any new water in it. Just left the hose out on the ground. And when I went back the next Monday, behold, what did my eyes find? No, I’ll change that; what did my nose find? An awesome, sickening, slimy, gummy, smelly, obnoxious, malodorous mess, now dry. Still green her, orange there, still the dead bugs and the sleeping monster from the lagoon, but now all dry and caked. Hardly an improvement.
The solution is obvious, of course. Clean out the can, put the hose back in, and every few days dip out some water. Keep it coming in and keep it going out, and all is beautiful, fresh, clear, clean, and helpful. Input, output, and refreshment.
From which I discern three very important principles. They apply not only to water storage; they apply to you and me as well.
The three principles:
First, if your cistern, your water storage can, has no output, it gets
messy and slimy.
Second, if your cistern has no input, it dries up, and is still messy and slimy too.
And third, when your cistern has both input and output it is sweet to be around and it makes for a whole lot of refreshment.
Or, as the book of Deuteronomy puts it, "When the Lord your God brings you into the land which he promised, to give you houses full of all good things which you did not fill and cisterns hewn out which you did not hew and vineyards which you did not plant, when you eat and are full, take heed lest you forget the Lord."
And, as the writer of Deuteronomy insists in that same passage, "Those things which I command you shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them and you shall bind them on yourselves and you shall write them on your doorposts, lest you forget the Lord your God."
Let me take these principles one by one and see what the lessons of the cisterns really are for us. The Lord your God will give you cisterns hewn out which you did not hew … let these things be on your heart … and teach them diligently lest you forget the Lord your God.
First, if your cistern has no output, it gets messy and slimy. You shall teach diligently lest you forget the Lord your God.