Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Nourishment in flowing water

It's been a while, and for that I must apologise. I don't know what happened, but suddenly writing on my blog just didn't seem as interesting as it has previously. But I currently have the urge to write something about something, and I don't really know what... In the last week water has been a large part of my life, both a lack of and an over abundance. But it got me thinking about the significance of water to me as a Christian.

BayWest has been renamed Wellspring, meaning the place where the river starts to flow. In other words, it's where people will be raised up to follow God, before flowing out to nourish the community around. But do you think the spring could cause a flash flood? Is it possible to have too many Christians in the community? I don't think that's possible, but I do think there is always a risk of a spring flowing too fast, not allowing enough time in between welling up and spreading out - sending out the people ill-equipped to fight the every day demons of the secular world. Some might argue that anyone who follows Jesus is capable of nourishing the community with their knowledge, but another might say that new Christians only have enough vitamins to nourish themselves, and not others, that as they develop their faith, trust and knowledge, they gain the resources to share. Hmmm, I don't like this second theory, but I feel there may be some truth in it, although I also believe that any Christian, old or new, should be able to spread some nutrients to the community through which they flow, and should be able to rely on God to renew their resources, to keep giving.

People today focus on serving oneself first, and others later. The Christian community has responded by serving others first, and oneself second, a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly. But what about spiritual renewal? It is very hard to renew one's own spirit while giving out to others - it's like having a pipe through which the water flows, without stopping to benefit the middle point. We have been trained to believe that taking some time out is selfish, and unnecessary.

I recently experienced what could only be described as spiritual starvation. I was leading on a camp, and was struggling to show God through my actions, to a group of campers who were infuriatingly blasé about responding to kindness. Over the week I could feel myself becoming more exhausted, and grumpier, finding it harder to reach down for kindness and godliness to give. But my exhaustion wasn't just physical. I was pining for some time with God, and had to admit defeat and take time out. I had never required time out for such mental exhaustion before, and it was disturbing. Was God not feeding me? Had he abandoned me to rely only on my own meagre resources, without renewing them? No he hadn't, but what he was feeding me was going straight through the pipe, out the other end, to the campers. I had no chance to absorb what I was being given, before giving it out again, and it was killing me.

God will never ever put you, me, anyone in a situation with which they cannot cope, but sometimes he will require you to stop and listen to his plan for getting through. Pushing on, without stopping for directions, is like running through a minefield without looking at the map. It is dangerous, foolish and can cost you your life. Of course, God could make sure you follow the safe route through, but that's not what free choice is about - his gift to us is the requirement that we make our own decisions, and he can only place markers to show us his way. But we need to stop and look out for them. And THAT is what time out with God is about. It's not a selfish time away from giving God to other people, it's stopping at the service station to get petrol, directions and clean the windscreen of all the stuff you drive through, for a better view of the road, so you can get your passengers to the destination safer and faster.

I hope that makes sense to someone. I hope someone reads this. I'll be praying for everyone who reads this, that you will learn to stop at the service station, and not run the tank empty every time before stopping to refuel. I pray that you will learn to put a dam up within you, to retain some nourishment that flows through you to others, that you won't be forced to remove that dam simply to keep up with supply, but I also pray that you will not become a blocked pipe, from which nothing leaves, and into which nothing new enters.