Abandoning the Water Fountain for Empty Cisterns

I am floored at the highs and lows of my daily life; personal, spiritual, social, and even work. Most days I walk out of this office and look back thinking I could work here forever and thanking God for the profound opportunity to walk these sacred halls. Other days, quite frankly, I last until noon, and think, “I’ve got to get out of here.” I rush off to Mom at home, come back an hour or so later, and hit life again.Thank God those days are seldom, few, and far-between. I’m sure family, friends, and staff are equally relieved.

Some days I feel like I’m caught up to the third heaven basking in the presence and power of the Lord. But, unfortunately there are other days I feel completely void of the presence and power and come up spiritually empty and desert-level dry.

Sometimes I love to be in the company of other people enjoying a good laugh or giving a listening ear. But, there are other times I feel so lonely in the midst of a room full of people. Occasionally I just like to come into this office and turn on Michael W. Smith drubbing quietly away at the ivory keys and type away on this computer pounding loudly something that makes sense of it all. Of course, I often tell my wife that one of the key principles of life today is, “Sweetheart, it doesn’t have to make sense.”

The weeping prophet may have understood a little of all of this and so much deeper and dryer when he wrote, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Admittedly if you wake up grumpy in the morning the wimpy, weepy words of the prophet Jeremiah won’t snap you into a better state of mind. For that matter Ecclesiastes won’t help much either. Jeremiah, Solomon—and come to think of it, many others—just state it like it is; take it, leave it, or experience it. The correct choice is to leave it for better things.

Sometimes I feel like that, Jeremiah. A broken cistern. Empty. Thirsty. Sometimes I feel like that Jude; a cloud without water. Paul painfully drives it home when he mentions “vessels of dishonor.” I hate to admit it, Peter, but sometimes I feel like wells without water. I come up short. And perhaps it’s because, at least for a moment, I have forsaken Him, the fountain of living water. He promises to provide a spring of living water rising into everlasting life. He promises to fill my thirsty soul. My response and actions signify I have “forsaken” Him. I’ve left. Departed. Abandoned. Neglected. Let go. Left alone. Loosed. Ouch. Did I mention, ouch?

All the time He is there; my source of living water. Flowing. Alive. Springing. Spraying. Soaking. You get the word picture, right? I picture jumping out of life’s gloom and doom and jumping into the water fountain. I envision getting sprayed with His love; soaked in His goodness; alive in His presence. While in West Africa we would go long periods of time without water. When the torrential rains blew in my kids and their father would run outside and just get drenched; sopping, and soaked to the skin. On my more distinguished and dignified days, even a crystal glass filled with water from the fountain suffices or is agood start.

I want those full, soaked days. Forget those dry days when I come up empty. I don’t want to be broken.Crushed. Destroyed. Shattered. Wrecked. Ruptured. Quenched. I don’t want to come up short not able to hold water. You’ve heard that phrase, “It just won’t hold water.” Unable. Incomprehensive. Unsustainable. Unnourished. It’s amazing that the very container designed to hold water turns out to be empty. It was designed to be full but is destined to be empty. God makes the fresh stream. Man makes the cistern.

The problem with a broken cistern, reservoir, or empty well is catastrophic (especially if you happen to be in the shower when the well runs dry). If it doesn’t rain you have no water. Even when it does rain the cistern accumulates silt, pollution, corruption, contamination, and rancid stagnation. All of that can be defined with one word; “YUK!” Defilement and debris are not healthy items on any diet. There are times when our lives need to be poured out, cleaned up, and filled up again. Jesus promised that out of us could flow or would flow “rivers of living water” (John 7:37).

I hate myself when I abandon the spring of fresh, flowing water, and exchange it for a muddy, dirty cistern that can’t hold water today, tomorrow, or ever. I don’t want to turn my back on the one true God and switch to worthless, futile substitutes. I want to return to the “fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9). Cisterns always leave us empty. Well water is limited. When it’s gone; it’s gone. I know that last statement is profound, eh? When we cut ourselves off from the supply of living water we begin to dig our own cisterns. We manufacture our own things.

Jesus has the solution for an empty life. He said He would provide “water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Like the Samaritan woman my response is, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:14-15). I’m thirsty. I think I’ll go for a drink! It’s time to run to the fountain of life and forsake the empty, broken cistern.

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