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~ Driven by Passion ~


    A story describes a traveler in a desolate wilderness. Excited by the prospects of water, food and shelter from the incessant dry wind, he hurries to inspect a weather worn old cabin. The eyes of his thirsty body, however, spot a water hand pump and he heads for that first. He pumps the handle a few times very vigorously, and feeling no suction, gives up his quest for water. He ambles over to the cabin to see if there are any provisions. Half the roof had caved in but that wasn’t a concern since there had been no rain for weeks. The cupboards, however, held only years old dirt. At least, he thought, he could snuggle against a wall and take a night’s break from the sandy wind.

    In the corner of that wall rested a glass gallon jug, full of clean water! Tied to a string looped over the neck of the bottle was a note: "Use this water to prime the pump. The pump needs all of it to work. Fill this jug up for the next traveler."

    The worn and thirsty man’s principles and sense of obligation to others as well as to self were challenged from all sides. Here was a gallon of water and he could drink his fill right then and still have some left for his water bottles. But would that be enough? And the next passerby would have nothing. Was that pump still working or would he end up pouring precious water into a hole for nothing in return? Someone unknown to him made him a trusted keeper of the water designated for one purpose. Could he violate that trust? No one would ever know anyway. If the pump wouldn’t work, then he and all the other passersby would be out of water anyway. The words of Christ’s prayer came to mind: "O Lord, let me not yield to temptation, and deliver me from evil."

    "Hate the sin but love the sinner," is another thought that came through the traveler’s pondering. He always figured that to be a loop hole for "Love each other as I have loved you." Under the guise of loving the sinner but hating the sin, preachers feel free to condemn sin with vigor, even with a strange glee, and the love of the sinner is not communicated and the sinners are not experiencing any love from those preachers. The distinction between sin and sinner is a blur.

    "Sin is a falling short, a disordered state of being, a self-destructive thing in our lives," thought the traveler, now seated next to the jug of good water. "It must be like a sickness. I loved my wife but hated the cancer that consumed her life. God loves me but certainly doesn’t love the dehydration of my body that threatens my life. This dehydration doesn’t define who I am, and neither do my sins or temptations. The Scriptures say Jesus was tempted in all ways, just like us. Interesting how so many preachers do not evoke fire and brimstone over the busybody gossips, or those that eat much more than they need and laugh about the scriptural condemnation of gluttony, or those that propagate lies, that rob people of their dignity and honor and even their reputations and livelihoods. How about idolatry? All those things we treasure and give priority over time in prayer, study, contemplation, worship. There are more fashionable sins to rail about. But they all are destructive."

    The traveler forgot his thirst as he waded into deeper contemplation. "When someone is sick, perhaps even chronically sick, love seems to be lavished upon them all the more. And he or she feels that love, that caring, that sharing in his or her suffering and affliction. But when someone is in a chronic state of sin, he or she experiences confrontation, condemnation, and the despising of others. When does that ‘love the sinner’ part kick in?"

    The trail weary man fingered the neck of that glass jug of water. "Yes, where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. Here is a jug of grace. The grace was given to me, but the water was reserved for the pump." With renewed energy and resolve, with all temptation gone, the traveler picked up the jug of water and headed towards the rusty old pump.

    As he offered thanks for this grace in a jug and the life sustaining water it promised to bring, it occurred to the traveler that authentic Christian living is driven by passion, not program. We are so programmed to present the anticipated and right image, to speak the right things, to appear the right way. Deviations cause suspicions, and that kicks in the sins of gossip and idle talk that only degrades others. We are afraid of that, so we simmer down our passion for zeal, for truth spoken and lived, for loved expressed to the unlovable, for embracing the lepers in our culture...for giving it all we got.

    The traveler gave the pump all he had, in trust. He didn’t even wet his own lips. He was priming that pump with passion. He delighted in the moment, and the prospect of no water coming out would not take the joy of his passionate abandonment away from this moment. Water or not, he wouldn’t regret giving the pump all he had. He may be without water, but the grace of his passion would remain and overflow.

    The pump handle resisted. The traveler pushed against it feeling a surge below. Another push of the handle...water! Grace upon grace! He filled the jug, drank his fill, and filled it again, emptying the water into his travel bottles. Then he filled the jug one more time. As he carried it back to the cabin, the man felt a strange love for the next passerby, unknown to him, but caring nonetheless. After resting the glass jug back into the corner, he scribbled an additional note which he tied to the neck of the water jug: "Give that pump all you got. It really does work!"

    In our last Reflection, we pondered "Why did the thief leave the moon and stars behind?" Perhaps because he lost, or never had, a passion for grace. The man he robbed wished he had been home to give him that. That man loved that sinner thief, and had nothing to say about hating his sin..."Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive those whose sins are against us...so that healing, reconciliation, and love will reign in all our lives."

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services

Weekly Reflections © June 28, 2003
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com

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