Today our sinks and tubs are all a dirty yellow-orange. The water softener is not working. So, though I am not much of a handyman, I descend to the basement. I find that the brine tank is full of water — too much water. I consult the manual and it gives me three troubleshooting options to try.
Today, our sinks and tubs are all a dirty yellow-orange. The water softener is not working. So, though I am not much of a handyman, I descend into the basement. I find that the brine tank is full of water — too much water. I consult the manual, and it gives me three troubleshooting options to try.
Unfortunately, the manual’s diagrams do not list the parts mentioned in the troubleshooting guide, not by the same names, anyway. Now I am really lost. So I call my friend, who wisely advises me to bring in a reputable service agent.
However, before I do that, I call the manufacturer’s help line. Their representative tells me to check the float. I tell her that it is in the up position. She informs me that I have a problem. (Who would have guessed?) As long as the float is in the up position, she tells me, water will neither flow into the softener nor will it discharge from the brine tank. Hence, regeneration will not take place.
So now I am awaiting the advent of our service agent, who surely will set things right. And I am thinking about how this state of affairs parallels the life of faith.
In the life of faith, there is both an incoming and an outgoing line. We can think of these lines as carrying grace into a person, where it does its regenerating work, and then out to others.
If the outgoing line is clogged or for some other reason fails to function — if grace, forgiveness and love cannot get out — then the intake will also cease to operate. It is a law of the spiritual life.
The person who takes in but never gives out is like a spiritual Dead Sea. Water flows in but, because there is no outlet, it stagnates. The Dead Sea has the highest mineral content of any body of water in the world, and there is no life in it. A similar doom awaits those who receive but never give.
Then there is the person in the opposite situation, who gives out but never pauses to take in. It won’t be long before he or she has nothing left to give. You can find such people in any charity organization. They are dedicated to the work but have no heart for the people. They didn’t start out that way, but trying to give without having received has drained them dry.
Those who understand spiritual realities tell us that a continual cycle of receiving and giving is necessary. As God gives to us, we give to others. As we give ourselves to others, God gives himself to us. The ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah says, "If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed ... the LORD will ... satisfy your needs. ... You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."
Jesus tells us that if we will lose ourselves for his sake — that is, if we spend ourselves for him and for others — we will discover our true selves. Those who refuse to spend themselves, who only focus on what they can get, gain many things, but they inevitably lose themselves.
It seems odd, but among those who lose themselves, it is not uncommon to find some very religious people. They attend worship services, go to conferences and read their Bibles, but they are spiritual Dead Seas. They take but never give. Their single criteria for selecting a church is whether or not they are "fed." That it might be just as important to "feed" never occurs to them.
I once read of a man who was caught by the neck, suspended in the crook of a power line coupling. By rights, he should have been electrocuted, but he was not. Because there was no way for the electricity to get out of him — he was not grounded — it did not flow into him.
It is much the same with us. Even if we are connected to a spiritual power source (like the Bible or the church), God’s love and grace cannot get in if we are not giving out. But when we lose ourselves, spend our inner resources in doing God’s will, he replenishes us ... with himself.
The Daily Reporter, Coldwater, Mich.