Living Water Keeps Flowing

December 18, 2013

At least once a week, a surprise package arrives in the mail or on my front porch. These random acts of kindness have come from friends far and near, who have sent not a Christmas present but an “open me now” gift of encouragement. Honestly, I am put to shame for lack of creativity all these years walking alongside buddies who have had cancer or some other life-altering medical condition. Just a sampling: Emily sent a pair of cashmere socks which I wear all the time now; Viola sent two headscarves, one so clever I had to call her for instructions how to wear it; a church session sent a gorgeous calligraphed rendering of Aaron’s blessing; my anonymous “coffee angel” delivers a half-pound of my favorite decaf every Tuesday; Randy sends a funny or heartwarming video each Friday; a church member brought a great big poinsettia for the front porch. The list goes on and on, but the effect is the same: great blessing has been flowing in my direction since the end of October, and its effect is to remind and convince me that I am not alone, that I am loved, and that I have many people praying for me.

It would be easy for me, in the flesh, to develop a sense of entitlement and to hoard the proceeds of illness. In particular, I feel little desire or obligation to share the premium chocolate bar Louise sent me, because it’s mine and chocolate is medicine, right? I could follow in Israel’s footsteps, and believe only in my chosen-ness and not in any commission to be a light to the nations or a supporter of the poor (flaws searingly revealed by the prophet Isaiah). I could become a reservoir of “dead water,” like the Dead Sea: steady inflow from the Jordan River but a putrid dead-end without an outflow.

So husband Andy came home from work last night with a lousy head cold. My beloved, who has been tender and merciful, generous and self-giving, patient and tolerant of my limitations, now is weak and contagious and needing help. It is my turn to return the blessing! And how grateful I am that last evening, I had a surge of energy to complete tasks that ordinarily would be his in our new household order: doing a load of laundry, emptying the dishwasher, getting the house ready for a thorough cleaning today. It also meant sleeping in my recliner instead of in bed next to a real sickie, but this too was God’s unglamorous opportunity for me to be a blessing.

When Jesus said that he was the Living Water, he was invoking a strong mental image of a Jewish custom. The mikvah bath prepares every Jewish male for worship, and the water source must be “living,” that is, it must flow from a clean source through the bath facility and flow out to carry away one’s uncleanness. Jesus, the Living Water, washes us with God’s unlimited supply of forgiveness and grace. The blessing we receive is intended to wash through us into the lives of others, in Abrahamic “blessed to be a blessing” fashion. The blessing never stops with us, or we become a cistern of stinky selfishness with a mistaken notion of entitlement.

Another biblical image of living water, not a bath but a drink:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

The power source of our outpouring is the Spirit of God, who is both the Blesser and the Blessing. We appropriate this unlimited resource through belief in Jesus Christ, who by virtue of that trust indwells us with his Spirit. The very power that raised Jesus from the dead now dwells in our mortal bodies by faith (Rom. 8:11), enabling even someone weakened (but not defeated!) by cancer to be a blessing when there is a need. So today’s reminder is to think in terms not only of what we have received from God, but of that outflow from our lives into others’. We must resist the temptation to hoard our blessings. Do not read more into God’s provision than is intended: we have been blessed to be a blessing, so we keep it moving in Living Water fashion so others can know the love of God through us today.

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2 Responses to “Living Water Keeps Flowing”

  1. Judy Dickey Says:

    Mary, you are loved by so many and what a blessing your blog is. I would respond more often but you usually leave me speechless. I always come way with a message for my heart and a tear in my eye. We’re just about to do the woman at the well in our small group. Your thoughts on living water will be repeated there! We’re praying for you and Andy too!
    Judy


  2. Mary – so many little things that are such big blessings. Amen. Little Larry wanted to be sure that you got the teddy bear he sent from his collection. 🙂 He also asked if you need hats. In his nine year old generosity and two years of cancer treatment wisdom, Larry said, “Tell your friend that my hair has grown back so I don’t need all the hats I have. I could send her some.” “Auntie” Carmen

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