Picture a pond in a quiet section of forest, still with inaction. On one side, you see a stream pouring into it, and on the other – where the water should be continuing to flow – you see dead trees, branches, mud, greenery, and anything else a beaver could get its hands on to build a dam. This pond was not meant to be a pond, but a stream strongly flowing. Maybe some trees fell and got stuck, slowing the water flow. Perhaps that let twigs and branches and leaves floating down get stuck also, until a beaver came along and officially turned it into a dam, slowing the flowing water to a small trickle.
Then a pond began to form, crossing over the boundaries of the stream onto dry land, flooding nearby trees. The water in the pond began to collect more murky silt, and scummy algae can be seen in the bed of stream. It’s now somewhere you’d rather not step into, kicking up silt and slipping on slimy algae.
I think this is what our lives begin to look like, sometimes.
I think our lives are like a freely flowing stream, full of thoughts and actions based on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. They stream from its Source, and are meant to stream further beyond us. We are given all these gifts, and we need to continue to pass them on; we need to let them flow freely through us and beyond, to those in our lives.
When we don’t do that, it’s like a dam slowly gets built, preventing the steady stream of that goodness out of us. When we choose not to live how God has instructed us to – when we choose to live instead for negativity, sin, and things not of Him – we slowly choke out the flow of goodness we’re meant to produce.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
It’s a cause and effect that has been designed for our lives that we cannot change: goodness flows in, and so goodness must flow out. We are created to be fruitful in God, and when we’re not, our lives can’t be the most fruitful. When that process gets circumvented, thwarted, or obstructed, unintended effects start to happen – just as sin misled the first two humans of our world, leading to effects they never dreamed of.
That might seem a drastic comparison, and I’m not saying they’re the same thing, but the the slow way we can let ourselves become dammed up with stagnant water, letting more negative thoughts and actions flow out instead is also drastic. Sometimes we think, “I would never do that,” or “How could someone do that?!” I’m not entirely sure either, but I do know that at the very beginning, it started with not using the things that God has given us. Whether that’s things like love, hope, and joy, or skills that God has given us to use for the wellbeing of those around us, like working an information desk, landscaping, writing, construction, or teaching.
You might say, “I don’t see how something like landscaping could have such an effect…” and it won’t for everyone. But somewhere out there, I think God has given a gift that best manifests in something like landscaping or in some other seemingly unaffected profession. For each of us, there are gifts we’ve been given and so are responsible to use to benefit others. Isn’t that neat? God will use every little thing we can do for His purposes.
When we use what we’ve been given for those around us and for His purposes, our lives thrive! They’ve been designed to be abundant when we live in Him. It’s like a stream flowing clear and quick, with nothing obstructing it. It’s free to pass everything it receives onward.
If and when we do let ourselves begin to get stagnant (because make no mistake, this is something everyone goes through) take apart the dam! Remove those things that are stopping up our joy and love, or carry out those gifts you’ve been keeping on your shelf. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for you, since all of us are different, but I do know this: when you sincerely turn to Him, making an effort to fix your stream, He’ll show you how.
I know what it feels like to become stagnant, recognize it, and then not fix it. I know what shame feels like because of that, and I also know it’s unnecessary and not from God. If you’re in a stagnant place, and beating yourself up over it – don’t. We’ve already been purified, we just have to act on it.
Isn’t that amazing, though? Our lives have been created to operate in very specific ways, and seemingly insignificant things can get us all out of joint without us even realizing it at first. Yet, we have access to such an amazing source that is always powerful enough to blow any blockages out of the water. We might get stagnant easily, but never forget how much more powerfully our streams are sourced, no matter what.
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
What a Wonderful World!