‘The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly…’ 1 Tim 1:14
There is a wonderful cycle in nature that links the first three of our studies. Water evaporates from the seas, is lifted into the atmosphere where it forms clouds over higher ground, to be later deposited as rain upon hillside and mountain. There it becomes trickles of water feeding into streams which flow down to lower ground and pastures, growing into a river and eventually flowing back into the sea, where the cycle begins once again. As a result of this continual cycle, plants are watered, crops grown and harvested and mankind fed and kept from starvation. This happens without the impact of man, but without it man could not live.
I live the story told by Amy Carmichael about a time when love seemed in short supply. She was sitting by a pool in the forest and watching the water flowing in from a stream carved out in the rocks above it. There was always inflow, and always outflow. Never for one minute did the water cease to flow in, and never for one moments did it cease to flow out. ‘I knew, of course, that the water that flowed out was the water that flowed in.’ she relates. ‘The hollow that we called The Pool had no water of its own, and yet all the year round there was an outflow…. If love flows in, love will glow out. Let love flow in, that was the word of The Pool.’
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land— a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig-trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey Deut 8:7-8
So it is with God’s provision for mankind, both physically and spiritually. His Love, Mercy and Grace flow endlessly 24/7 into lives that are open to receive it - refreshing, feeding, strengthening and enabling. Nothing can stop the flow, but it is possible to fill the pond with debris so that the water flows around and away. God’s Grace has been flowing in this world from the moment of its creation. Some have chosen to open themselves to the flow, to let that stream feed them and overflow to the world around them. Others have donned their waterproof clothing and refused to let the water get through, or have filled their lives with so much debris that nothing can percolate through to their hearts and souls.
We need to look back in time to those heady days in the Garden of Eden, beyond the symbolism to the simple story of mankind and its relationship with The Creator.
‘Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground - trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden…’
It was a great relationship at the start; Adam walked naked through the Garden, smelt the flowers, drank from its streams, ate the fruits and berries and admired the diversity of trees and plants that had been placed there. He did all of this hand in hand with his God, enjoying all the good things that had been provided for his use and enjoyment. It was a beautiful place and it was a beautiful relationship, but it was all to go tragically wrong. Eve persuades Adam that they could manage quite nicely without that closeness, and they choose self-sufficiency against the all-sufficiency of a life fed and watered by the stream of living water that flows from the Creator.
It’s a mistake that so many make, not just out there in ‘The World’ but even within our churches. It’s to do with dependency. Without water we quickly go thirsty, and soon afterward hunger sets in. There’s plenty of physical starvation in this world but I guess that spiritual starvation is even more prevalent; showing itself in the general apathy toward organised religion in the West, and within this post-modern world an insistence that there are no absolutes, merely opportunities to create god in our own image.
Go for that walk in the countryside, or if you have a river flowing through your town or city sit beside it and meditate for a while. Look at the strength of the current flowing by; consider the water which has its source beyond your view, and a destination that is the ocean. The water carries with it debris that it has picked up along its travels, and beneath its surface are stones, once rough and jagged that have been smoothed and shaped by the continual action of the currents.
Where is your life in relationship to that flow of water? Has the debris that you carry with you been washed away? The sticks with which you hurt others, the grime and rubbish that weigh you down – are they still there or are they already being swept on their way to the ocean?
And what about those stones and pebbles? How rough and jagged are the edges of your life, and how much in need are you of being moulded into something smooth and beautiful in God’s eyes?
That stream – we can’t do without it, and now and then we have to immerse ourselves in it if we’re going to stay alive.