After our well needed repair we were instructed to have the water tested to insure that it was safe to drink. When the test results came back they indicated that our water was contaminated with bacteria and that we needed to treat the water with chlorine. Following the instructions I uncovered the well, removed the vent plug and poured a gallon of bleach down into six inch well pipe which protruded from the ground. That was not the end of it. Furthermore, I had to circulate the bleach throughout the 350’ of well pipe, turn on all the water taps, showers, etc. until every single one tested positive for the presence of chlorine. Then, after letting it remain in them for at least 24 hours, we were to flush them all until clear of chlorine and again have the water tested. We are awaiting that result. It took only a few minutes to pour that bleach into the well. It took several days to complete the cleansing process.
In many ways this is an illustration of our lives. When we realized our water was contaminated and dangerous we made a decision that we wanted change. This is like when we realize we have been wrong and repent of sin. When I poured that bleach into the well that is like when we accept God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into our life. At the moment I poured that bleach into the well, all the power necessary to clean it completely was present… but the water coming from the taps was still contaminated. We may have asked Jesus to come into our lives but our habits, language, way of doing business and dealing with others may be corrupted in many ways.
It took far longer to circulate the cleansing power of that strong chemical to clean all of our pipes than to initially get it into the well. In the same way, while asking Jesus to come into our heart makes present within us all the power to change everything, it takes a lifetime of intention and deliberate action working together with God’s Holy Spirit for our lives to become more each day a source of purity and grace in an unclean, infected world.
“In 40 years of teaching art, you are my only failure!” My own mother said this to me. “You can draw your breath and flies, and that is all you can draw!” This might seem pretty harsh but she meant it. It was true– sad, but true.
Hanging on the wall in my office at church in a most prominent place is my only effort at painting. It is a picture of “The Spirit of St. Lewis”, flying low over an ocean buoy during Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
I was about 10 or 12 years old and I was in tears, looking at the mess I had made of that painting.
“Joe, what’s wrong?”
“Ohhh Mom! I can’t do anything right!”
“It’s not so bad. Let me have your brush.”
In her aged, skilled hands my splotchy attempt at sunrise BECAME sunrise! The blob of orange paint I had carelessly dropped became a buoy bobbing in the endless expanse.” I looked in disbelief at what had just happened and exclaimed, “Mom, I guess I AM an artist!”
Now, years later, when I realize I have messed up or when someone comes into my office fretting over an error in judgement, I look at that painting and think of the greatest Master.
God is a wonderful and talented Artist. He is so great that nothing I do can ruin the painting that is my life. But I must do these things:
1. I must be serious about the painting that is my life.
2. I must be honest and admit that I have messed it up.
3. I must hand my brush to the Grand Master.
4. I must be patient and trusting as before my eyes He transforms my mess into a true work of art.
When I did that long ago, my painting ceased to be mine alone. It became Mom’s and mine.
Today when I do this with my life, it ceases to be mine alone. My life becomes a portrait of God in me.
“Nuke ’em til they glow!” I felt that way after 9/11. As a technician in the Air Force during the cold war I spent six years in my job of making sure ‘the button’ would do just that. We had 64 H-bombs parked at the end of the runway. We would say, ‘Close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermo-nuclear war!”
Once again since Monday’s bombing in Boston that feeling is felt by many.
When God came to live among us He could have been born as a ‘Superman’ capable of executing justice on behalf of millions and preventing such calamities from ever taking place. So why wasn’t Jesus ‘the Man of Steel? After all, as God He could have chosen where, when and how He would come to live among us. But with all that power He never hit back.
This week I felt anger and hurt. I nursed it for a day or so. Every thought of the offense against me renewed my desire for justice and bitterness began to root. Today I just walked away from it and in doing so peace returned. It was God in me who ‘talked me though it’.
If I did not have God deep within to wrest my anger and my desire for retribution from my hand then what would I do? It has been said that if we all lived by an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the whole world would be blind and toothless. No, Jesus came not to exact revenge or force justice but to change the human heart. The only answer in a world filled with hate and violence is the One who took the anger from my heart once again. Only God can change the heart and make the world right again.