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From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-05-14-1In the early morning hours of February 12, 2014, the earth opened beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. A sinkhole measuring 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep swallowed the floor of the sky dome section of the tourist attraction, along with 8 classic Corvettes. Damage was in the millions of dollars. A security camera captured the scene of the peaceful showroom floor collapsing into the belly of the earth.

Scientists tell us sinkholes are common in ground that is rich in soluble rock. Over time, currents beneath the surface dissolve the rock, leaving behind underground caverns filled with water. During dry seasons, these underground pools drain away, causing the ground at the surface to lose its underlying support. The end result is a collapse of the earth’s surface.

What’s scary about sinkholes is that prior to collapse, everything seems fine. But below the surface it’s a different story. There, everything is dry and empty—a disaster waiting to happen.

It can be similar in the life of a pastor. Like sinkholes, everything on the surface may seem fine and in order. But below the veneer there may be emptiness—a disaster waiting to happen.

Many of us have learned the art of managing the surface of our lives. We work and serve and stay busy. We manage our lives well at this level. After all, the surface is where fruit is born. And the surface is what gets noticed. Gordon MacDonald tells us, “Natural gifts such as personal charisma, mental brightness, emotional strength, and organizational ability can impress and motivate people for a long time. Sometimes they can be mistaken for spiritual vitality and depth. Sadly, we do not have a Christian culture today that easily discriminates between a person of spiritual depth and a person of raw talent. Like the wheat and the tares of Jesus’ parable, they can be difficult to distinguish. The result is that more than a few people can be fooled into thinking they are being influenced by a spiritual giant when in fact they are being manipulated by a dwarf.”[1]

We mean well. We simply get busy. The needs on the surface are good and legitimate. Yet, they tend to take over. Surface needs demand our time, energy, and attention. On more than one occasion, I have noted the similarity between the function of the pastor and the image of the air traffic controller. We frantically maneuver about, waving our arms, directing people and programs. We stay busy at the surface.

The answer this problem is nothing new. Psalm 42 reminds us, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!” The psalmist continues the water imagery: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:1-2a, 7, NIV).” God longs for our thirstiness. He wants us to desire His nourishing flow. He desires to flood the dry caverns of our lives with streams of living water. He stands ready to saturate and fill the vacuums of our souls.

We cannot force the flow of water beneath the surface. Instead, we tend to the means of grace in our lives. We turn away from self-sustaining, and we turn toward His sustaining-self. We forego managing surface matters that we might give ourselves to God’s engulfing presence within our lives. We devote regular time and attention to practices that nourish our innermost parts—practices that open us, that make us ready to receive.

The greater the demands above the surface, the more aware I become of how parched I am within. Signals go off inside of me, deep calls to deep, and I open myself to the One who refreshes with living water that wells up to eternal life.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

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[1]Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), p. 5.

 

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