One evening, I had the delight of picnicking at a neighbourhood park with my brother, his wife and their two small children. Two-year-old Celeste sped off to do some exploring of her own while her mother kept a close eye on the toddler. Four-year-old Marshall raced to finish his sandwich as he spotted a fully equipped play area in one corner of the park, not too far from our bench.
After a quick inspection of the playground, Marshall focused his attention on the spiral slide and found a myriad of ways to climb and descend from the apparatus. After a few minutes, he ran up to his Dad and asked for one of the disposable cups we had brought with us.
Marshall filled the cup with sand and climbed to the top of the slide, then carefully poured the sand down its metal surface. As he couldn’t see the results of his effort from his vantage, he climbed down the stairs to look. Most of the sand had slipped right off the slide. With the nod of a scientist mentally recording his findings, Marshall shrugged and filled the cup again. He clambered up the stairs while carefully balancing the cup in one hand. Once again, my determined nephew poured the sand down the slide. Once again, he scrambled down the slide to check the results. The sturdy four-year-old climbed up and down those stairs countless times, never tiring in his little self-appointed task. As he was well occupied, his father and I took the opportunity to catch up on family news.
When it was time to pack up and head home, Marshall was reluctant to go, even though fatigue slowed his steps and he was beginning to spill sand on his dogged climb up the stairs. “But Daddy, I haven’t filled it up yet!” He pointed to the slide and explained. “It’s only a little bit full!” Sure enough, a thin dusting of sand covered the bottom of the slide, but it had made little if any purchase up against the slide’s incline. The majority of the sand he had so diligently carried and poured into his project ended up on the ground.
His father tried to explain. “Marshall, it doesn’t matter how many trips you make, it just won’t work. Nothing is holding the sand back from spilling off the edge. You can’t fill up something that doesn’t have a way of containing what you are trying to fill it up with.” Although his father could see Marshall’s goal was futile, Marshall was reluctant to let it go.
There are times when we pour into the lives of others and our ministries, and we see little if any fruit. No matter how diligent our effort and no matter how lofty our ambition, we seem to make little headway. Our churches don’t grow, and those we counsel fall back into old sinful patterns. By all appearances, our ministries have little impact in the lives of those we wish to reach. As Solomon said more than once in Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity.” It just seems futile after a while.
God speaks to us at those times. “Child, it’s futile to try to fill a vessel that has no way of containing all my blessings. Will you step back and allow me to create a new one within them that has the capacity of retaining my glory? I am the one that must repair their walls, not you. And I need to build proper borders and boundaries in their lives, but I can only do so if you allow me to remove the rubble.”
“God’s program for reviving His people is definite and clear. First Elijah repaired the altar of Jehovah that was thrown down. That is the place to begin. All the ruin that sin has wrought must be cleared away by confession. Things must be made right with God; restitution must be made where it is due. Unless this is done definitely and thoroughly, prayer for reviving is vain. Too many are praying today without repairing the altar by confession of sin, without digging a trench of separation from the world and without a surrender that is even unto death. No wonder such prayer is fruitless.” Andrew Gih
Quite simply, are you feeling worn down and burdened? Are you carrying a heavy load?
Ask yourself some hard questions.
Whose job is it to fix those around you? Who appointed you to be the fixer? Is it time for you to step aside and repent of trying to mould people into the image you think suits them best?
Are you enabling others by trying to patch their leaks with platitudes, nagging, and human wisdom or are you walking beside them and cheering them on as they take responsibility for their own life? If your usual methodology is the former, what is your success rate? Does something need to change within you?
Are you spending time with God and giving Him full permission to point out those areas of your life you are trying to fill by using your own leaky bucket? Are you willing to admit it’s a futile folly to do anything else but surrender those areas to Him?
Are you teachable and approachable? If God were to send someone along your path to help you repair your leaky bucket, would you accept their counsel?
“Our first aim in all we do – and we should stand by it continually will all our heart’s strength – is to hold fast to God and His ways. Anything that leads elsewhere, however important it seems at the time, should be thought of as irrelevant and futile or even positively harmful.” – John Cassian
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All Bible verses attributed to the ESV version unless otherwise indicated.
Until Next Week
©2018 Katherine Walden
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