a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 79
The incessant clicking ...
Where is He? Where is He in all this? And why doesn't He ride to my rescue? Why has He left me feeling this way, so dried up and cold, the callous hard, insensitive?
I raise my face skyward--isn't that where He dwells, after all?--I raise my face toward His and ask why He is satisfied with the way of things. Wouldn't He rather hold me more closely near His perfection? Is He pleased with the way of things? Is this part of His master plan?
Day One: Discovery
The incessant clicking ...
At the house, down on the first level, near the furnace and water heater, is the small metal box that tells the pump in the well when to come on, thus sending more water up the hill to replace that which has been used.
As water is used, the pressure in the line drops. When the pressure has dropped to a predetermined point, the relay clicks closed and the pump submerged in the well, more than a quarter-mile down the hill from the house, comes on, sending more water up the long climb toward the house. The pressure rises until, at 62 psi, the relay at the house clicks open, thus shutting off the pump.
One day the relay began clicking even without any water faucets being turned on. Early on, about every ten minutes, the line would need to be pressurized with new water from the well. Then every five minutes, then two.
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
Deep inside, the incessant clicking, ticking off the dimensions of the heart's emptiness, like an organic time bomb counting off the moments till detonation.
I peer inside, roust out all the customary demons so familiar and comfortable, yet still the clicking, and the uneasy feeling that I'm only discovering the effect, and not the cause.
There it is still, driving me mad with its cold persistence, so I root about, searching for the cause, pulling out all the standard tricks for search and seizure, but still the emptiness persists--and the clicking.
The feeling is very much like a nightmare in which one stumbles about aimlessly--never feeling quite right, always ill at ease. It is like the numbing nausea of homesickness--never quite able to shake the feeling that one is in the wrong place.
And it goes on and on and on. And always, the incessant clicking ...
Day Two: Process of Eliminatio
The plumber arrived.
The well sits down in the valley, surrounded by property belonging to someone else, a large cement-capped hole filled with the runoff from neighboring hills.
Losing pressure is generally synonymous with losing water, so we first examined the line in the well connected to the pump. Two check valves sit in the line atop the pump; the check valves prevent the water from running back into the well after it has been pumped up and out.
We detached the line and waited for the water brimming at the open end of the pipe to sink back toward the pump. But the water remained in place, indicating that the check valves were doing their job.
All the connections were checked down at the well and found to be intact. We then moved the investigation to the house, checked the integrity of the outside hydrant, the interior plumbing, the pressure tank and fittings. Everything checked out, leaving one inescapable conclusion: we had a leak in the line. Somewhere in almost fifteen-hundred feet of pipe, water was escaping.
And the clicking continued.
Come, Thou my Light, that I may see
Thy truth divine, Thy love so free.
Dispel the clouds of doubt and sin,
And let the face of God shine in.
What can it be? Where can it be?
I look for Him in all the usual places, wondering why He doesn't show Himself. Have I become so distasteful to Him that only His back can now be turned towards me? Can it be true: Does He now hate me?
Even in this state of disrepair I realize that of the two, I am the weaker. Surely my time will be better spent examining myself instead of my God. Yet the nagging persists: He's behaving differently now.
Listen to the heart. Examine the recesses of my devotion. Do I long for Him any less? Do I worship at the feet of another? Has my heart found solace in the arms of another? None of it has changed; my love for Him remains.
Have my associations changed? Perhaps the company I keep is drawing me into areas outside His bidding--into the darkness that knows not His light. Perhaps my activities are responsible for the dulling of my senses toward His ways. How much time do I spend with Him? away from Him?
Is my spirit now hardened? Have I gone out of my way to erect this insurmountable barrier between heaven and heart? Or has it happened by natural consequence, the result of influences outside my scope?
Anger rises. Why must I always be the one to put forth the effort? If I'm the weaker one in this relationship, why can't He somehow compensate for my inadequacies? Doesn't He realize that the cards are stacked against me--that I am the one dwelling in an alien domain? Why then won't He step closer, within my foreshortened reach?
SelahAnd in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 NASB
Day Three: The Search
It's a standard procedure for locating a leak--or at least reducing the distance in which it must lie: Cut into the water line at a midway point and check the pressure on both sides. The side where the pressure drops is the half containing the leak. Repeat the process in that half, until the distance in which the leak must lie is no more than three to four hundred feet.
Roughly midway between the house and the well the plumber's men began digging with their diesel-drinking beast. The owner of the property when the line was buried twenty-one years earlier had told me the path the pipe took below the surface, so that is where we dug.
To a depth of five feet they scooped out the soil with the back hoe, but there was no water line. They widened the hole; still nothing. Finally a pipe was discovered and cut, but the pipe contained not water, but the electric wire for the pump.
Finally, fifteen feet from where we began, the pipe was found. The dual-gauge contraption was inserted between the two sections, and the line pressurized. The gauge reading the pressure for the lower half dropped; the leak was toward the well.
That distance was bisected, another hole begun. And again the water line could not be found. Reversing the iron beast, they sliced deeply through the soil like a chain saw through balsam wood. Twenty feet from where we thought the line to be it was finally found. the hole was dug and the gauges inserted. Once again, they revealed the leak to be in the lower portion.
Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.
The digging hurts. As with a surgeon removing his own appendix, the self-inflicted pain becomes an obstacle to locating the offending organ.
Is it new distance or an obstacle that separates us? If the latter, who put it there; if the former, who moved? The Book says "Magnify the Lord with me," but somehow He's become smaller, rather than large, and it's sometimes difficult to find Him through the fog.
They say "Spend more time at church"--but programs and services and structured instruction bring no comfort for the emptiness of my soul. Sitting next to my pew mates I feel soiled and inadequate; dressed in their Sabbath righteousness, they present a picture of spiritual health I no longer share. The preacher sounds as if he's never experienced this emptiness, and has no sympathy for the one who has. The hymns have a tinny ring, so confident in their knowledge of Him. Does He dwell here only? Have these people all the answers?
They say "Read your Bible more often"--but the cotton swath around my brain makes the sound of His printed voice muted, even unintelligible. I recognize the familiar wisdom, but it bounces off my brain, remaining static and cold upon the page. I try, and try again, but I only feel like a eunuch reading the Song of Solomon. His words travel past my eyes, as if etched into cold blue steel, and none take hold. None.
They say "Spend more time in prayer"--but the words don't come, and my tongue is layered with burlap. I close my eyes, I darken the room, I close the closet door and lie prostrate before my God--but the words don't come, and the few that do bounce helplessly back upon me. The wall I have built renders me impotent.
They say "Talk to a friend"--but they either stare back at me with unblinking incomprehension, or they use too many words to explain to me why I am wrong. If I cannot explain myself to my God, I'll never be able to explain it to a friend.
I exhaust the spiritual toolbox; nothing remains except bits of broken dreams and greasy stains from past attempts.
But because the longing is still there--because even in my debilitated state I can still recognize the presence of disease--I press forward, struggling to reattach the broken cord.
SelahFor in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:24-25 NASB
Day Four: False Hope
With the evidence that the leak lay somewhere in the lower quarter of the water line, the decision was made to dig a trench and lay new line from the point of the last check to the well--a distance of 430 feet.
The beast sliced its way toward the well and the black line was dropped into the five feet-deep trench. The new line was brought into the well and attached to the pipe that led down through the water to the submerged pump.
At first it held. At first it seemed that the problem was fixed. The clicking stopped. But in only a few short hours it began again: With no water running from any faucets, the clicking began again every ten minutes, five minutes, two minutes--down to as short an interval as one minute.
Faithfully the well delivered its water, faithfully the pump sent its water up the hill. But somewhere hidden deep beneath the soil was a leak (or several) that was leaching away and wasting what was intended for the house.
And the incessant clicking ...
From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat:
'Tis found beneath the mercy seat.
The nagging discomfort is proof that the God-shape inside me remains filled. There is no irretrievable loss of Him in this life. All I need do is find again the method for reestablishing the elusive connection. He has moved away, or I have moved away, or each of us have gone on with other business. And for whatever reason He has left it to me to find the lost link, so I pray again, and I read again, and I listen patiently for Him to answer and call again to me in the stillness.
And He does. Yes, there He is; I once again hear that familiar voice. He has not abandoned me, nor I Him, and the communion is pleasant. I am restored, enveloped in His grace.
Yet it is a fragile peace. The bane of the one heaven-looking is that his feet are still earth-locked; no revival of the heart is sufficient to raise us skyward one iota. Heaven may be home, but the journey has not ended.
It doesn't feel quite right--like linoleum painted to look like wood, like an automobile made of plastic.
Can the peace I find at His feet ever be permanent so long as my feet are planted atop the soil of earth? Can it be sustained so long as my hope rests in someone promised yet unseen?
Inside is the clicking beat of my God-vacuum being paced off: Filling with stale air as the tenuous reuniting with Him ticks away, slips away from my grip.
Day Five: Searching Renewed
With the weight of the unsolved mystery bearing down on them the plumbers returned to reexamine the water line. Methodically they exhumed and inspected each joint they had installed: The coupling where two sections of new pipe had been spliced together; the point where they had attached the new to the old pipe; the location in the middle of the field, where they had first determined that the leak was located in the lower half--all were checked, and the integrity of each was verified.
But still the clicking ...
The fix had been insufficient. Replacing only the lowest quarter of the pipe either did nothing, or created a new leak elsewhere up the line. No one really knew--and we were back to square one.
My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty how bright,
How beautiful Thy mercy seat,
In depths of burning light,
In depths of burning light!
There's something tawdry about a cheap fix with the Almighty _ something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth and an acid pit in the belly.
When the chasm once more widens I consider why: Why does He need more? After all, isn't the quick fix good enough for everyone else? Isn't that how we do things nowadays?
In fact, the quick fix seems to leave things worse than before--as if He's been insulted by my easy recklessness with the relationship. He thought He meant more to me than that.
He does, and I realize that my frivolous repair has hurt me, too. If I were to treat my human friends in this way, I'd find myself even more alone than I already am, for they would not be nearly so forgiving and gracious as He.
He's not to be trifled with! His boundless capacity for mercy and compassion and forgiveness does not preclude His insistence on being treated fairly and with respect.
He has invested so much of Himself in me; why am I so timid about how much I will invest in Him? Why is it I carefully measure out what I give to Him, while He throws open the gates on what He gives to me?
Perhaps my reaction to this interrupted communion has become a measuring stick for how I feel about my God. How much, and how easily, will I move in His direction? Is my tepid response the measure of how much of my life is involved with Him? Is it the true measure of how I felt about Him before?
Plastic repairs and tissue paper wrappings are perfectly suited to my world. They are all most people are willing to expend for anyone other than themselves. But the Almighty, I am learning, considers such things worse than none at all. He is a God of substantial elements.
SelahWe know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:13-16
Day Six, Early: A New Tack
The plumber and his men were as frustrated as their customer. The leak was elusive, and refused to play by the standard rules. First isolated in the lower half, when that leak was repaired, apparently a new leak developed somewhere higher on the hill, in the upper half.
The options: Do we repeat the earlier procedure, moving up this time rather than down? Do we repair only a portion of the old pipe with new, or do we eliminate all of the old? Or do we even give up all together?
The decision was made to run new, larger and improved, pipe from the well up to the hydrant near the house. Surely, the plumber reasoned, the old pipe from the hydrant to the house would be all right, since it never experienced the pressure demands of the portions closer to the well.
So we began; I helped this time. While the plumber ran the trenching beast I glued together the quarter-mile of twenty-foot pvc pipe sections. The day progressed smoothly; for the first two-thirds of the distance the trencher churned happily while I got sunburned gluing pipe.
When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love and praise.
It seems a turning point. It takes so little to please Him, I wonder why I don't bother with the small effort more.
Just my willingness to reappraise--my willingness to consider that the first effort was less than it should have been--seems to extend His willingness to forgive.
It is the God-shape in me that aches from the separation; the emptiness is felt in that compartment. When I became His, He entered that compartment and took up residence, making Himself at home. When the communion is broken, it feels as if He has stepped out.
But it only feels that way. I muster the courage to admit that, in fact, I am the one who has somehow stepped away from the relationship. I am the one who has broken communion.
The emptiness felt in my God-shape blinds my reason, and in desperation I grasp at the easy solution--the quick fix. Surely He understands; surely He is as impatient as I to reconnect. But His patience knows no bounds; He is content to wait for the real thing.
I must remind myself: If God has bothered to move into my life, then it is clearly an important relationship to Him--and deserves my very best efforts. I don't treat Him as I would the grocery clerk, the mailman, the person I order tickets from, the deacon, the pastor _ even my best friend. My relationship with God--because of His relationship with me--is unique, and profoundly important. So the quick fix is only insulting to Him.
But, oh, when I determine to do whatever is necessary--when I determine that nothing, nothing will stand in the way of my relationship with the Almighty--when all obstacles of pride and sloth and selfishness have been removed ... Bless His name, He meets me halfway! He runs to me, eager for the renewed communion.
When I set my face to go to any length to restore the sweet communion, the God-shape in me bursts into song--a song of love and forgiveness. When I am willing to come to Him on my knees, admitting my spiritual poverty, He is quick to lift me up, quick to hold my quaking breast to His, to surround me with His healing arms.
Thro' every period of my life
Thy goodness I'll pursue,
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
SelahSo I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD'S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lament. 3:18-26
Day Six, Late: False Hope
As we neared the upper third of the field the trenching beast suddenly hit rock, and lots of it--broad sweeps of thick limestone buried three to five feet below the surface. The trenching blade bounced and complained and spat up white powder to signal its disapproval of such treatment. The plumber pressed on, but finally even he had to admit that his beast was beaten.
To withstand the freezing temperatures of winter, the water line must be buried to a depth of five feet--or at least more than three. But the broad field of rock now prevented that. Even new paths weren't sufficient to skirt the field of rock; it was all around, and standing between us and completion of the job.
Once again we were stymied.
So that we could at least have water restored on a temporary basis, the decision was made to continue on up the hill to the hydrant, leaving the pipe near the surface. Later a separate company would have to be hired to bring in a larger back hoe to excavate the rocks for the permanent placement of the pipe.
Late in the day the connections were complete. The new, improved pipe was connected to the pump down at the well, and tied into the line at the hydrant that continued on toward the house. Surely this would do it. At last we could look forward to a dependable water supply. With the plumbing connections secured, the switch was thrown ...
But still the clicking.
The well, far down in the valley, continued to pump, to send its water up the hill. But there was still, still a leak.
Should Thy mercy send me
Sorrow, toil, and woe;
Or should pain attend me
On my path below;
Grant that I may never
Fail Thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever
Cast my care on Thee.
It's never a straight path.
Only for a moment do I question the integrity of what has gone before; only for a moment do I wonder whether His response had been real. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16
"Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Was Job's response to his wife, when his world had crumbled into ruin about him. The ease of my journey has little to do with the quality of my relationship to Him. If His actions are based on His character, rather than mine, then just as I cannot take credit for His grace, I also cannot complain about His judgements.
If God cannot lie, and if He is incapable of being anything but true to Himself, then everything He says to me, everything He does for me, is true.
So when the sweet communion falters, I am disappointed, but I do not despair. When the world and its ways push back in, elbowing and bludgeoning their bulk between me and my God, I do not question that He remains firmly in place.
I am a traveler far from home; it is inevitable that the alien ways of the world will shoulder their way into my spirit. But it is up to me whether or not they have any influence upon my relationship with the Lord. It is up to me whether they simply disrupt, or take hold.
SelahNothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16
Day Seven, Early: Full-frontal Assault
It was with a determined vengeance that the plumber set to the task of extending the new water line all the way to the house.
First the pipe at the foundation of the house had to be located. He dug here, then there, then back over here; just as with every other part of this job, results were elusive. Finally, at more than ten feet down, below the west foundation of the house, the pipe was found. In the meantime we unearthed a Pepsi can, an old rusted toy truck, and tree roots large enough for a California redwood.
The man with the larger back hoe arrived after lunch to attack the field of rocks. After assisting with the excavation at the house, he moved out to the hillside to begin work deepening the existing trench and removing the imbedded stone. Even that job eventually took hours longer than anticipated.
Meanwhile the plumber set his beast to slicing through the west lawn, trenching a path for the new water line that would extend down to where it had stopped near the hydrant.
The hydrant was excavated and moved up closer to the house. The underground electrical line was repaired where it had been sliced through. The engines of the two diesel beasts filled the air with the roar of progress--progress pursued in finally, once and for all, reuniting the house plumbing to its source: the well in the valley, more than a quarter-mile away.
We would see Jesus;
the great Rock Foundation
Whereon our feet were set
by sov'reign grace;
Not life, nor death,
with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us,
if we see His face.
There is a happy euphoria in approaching the throne that diminishes every other pursuit. It is returning home after a tiresome journey; it is seeing the face of a loved one after a long absence; it is catching sight of land after long months at sea.
I approach Him with solemn, yet joyful determination. He is God--but He is my God; He is Lord of heaven and earth, but He is also Lord of my heart. Through Christ, He will not--He cannot--turn me away.
The closer I get to Him the easier it is to see His righteousness. When the communion is broken it is easy for the lies to take hold, easy for the picture of my God to become stained by the way others feel about Him. With the communion broken, it is easier to listen to the lies.
The closer I get to Him the easier it is to see that He has never lied to me. His words have been true--constantly true. There is no malice in Him, no desire to harm or shame or demean. Everything He has told me about Himself has been true.
The closer I get to Him the more clearly I see His radiance. As if peering through a dense fog, with the communion broken His brilliance is diminished by my filtered perception. Others may masquerade in light, but His light is true; others may shield my view of Him with their own false brilliance, but His light will shine through.
The closer I get to Him the more easily I shed those things that have kept me from His presence. They drop away like scales from my eyes: anger, regret, self-delusion, pride, sloth, selfishness--and, worst of all, the corrosive illusion that I know more than He.
SelahThe Lord reigns,
he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder
of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers
of the sea --the Lord on high is mighty.
Your statutes stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days, O Lord. Psalm 93:1-5
Day Seven, Late: Connection
The diesel beasts were at last silenced, the men who had earlier worked feverishly in the holes and trenches leaned against their shovels. The day drew down upon itself in anticipation.
The final joint had been glued, the final fitting wrenched tight. The pipe--from the well in the bottom of the valley all the way to the foundation of the house--was an unbroken thread of white plastic resting snugly at the bottom of a deep trench, and the soil had been back filled to cover the pipe.
The buried wire had been either repaired or replaced, so that the well pump could communicate with the house. The huge slabs of rock had been either pulverized or removed to make way for the pipe. Their bones lay in a heap nearby.
The hydrant had been moved closer to the house, connected to the new line, gravel added at its base, then covered back up.
With uneasy trepidation we filed into the house for the unveiling. After all this--after all the troubles and frustration--would it work? Would there, at last, be an end to this watery nightmare, this cartoon of mind-numbing woes?
With the weary plumber looking on, I replaced the wire that had been disconnected so that the work could be done. By connecting the wire to the screw the circuit was completed for the pressure switch to tell the pump to come back on and refill the quater-mile of empty pipe with water from the well.
The needle rose. As the pump filled the line and the pressure rose, the gauge showed the progress. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty--sixty pounds!
The pump clicked off, and we waited. If success, the needle would not move; if failure, the needle would drop.
We waited--and waited. Two minutes, five. Ten minutes, twenty minutes later, and the needle had not moved. There were no more leaks! And the incessant clicking had finally ceased.
The well had remained constant throughout. No matter what happened at the other end or anywhere along the line, it continued to pump water on demand. The water had been faithfully delivered, but because the pipe was broken, much of the water never made it to the house.
Our God is constant; His qualities never change. No matter what changes around Him, He faithfully behaves and acts according to who He is. His righteousness and light flow steadily out toward His people.
But sometimes the communion is lost. Breaks occur, weak points develop. The world's fog envelops us and clouds our clear vision of the throne.
When that happens--and it will--it is important for us to remember that our God is not the one who has severed the connection. There is nothing in Him that would cause Him to break communion with His people.
Through Christ we belong to Him, and through Christ we have the privilege to approach His throne with confidence. His mercy and boundless love never cease; they remain freely available to all those who come to Him.
When we are ready to do whatever is necessary to restore that lost communion, our God is ready to receive us back. Because He is the Well, and He is always there.
NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home
Issue No. 79
[1.] Frank E. Graeff. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] Hugh T. Kerr. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] Ray Palmer. (return to footnote 3)
[4.] Ibid. (return to footnote 4)
[5.] Hugh Stowell. (return to footnote 5)
[6.] Frederick W. Faber. (return to footnote 6)
[7.] Joseph Addison. (return to footnote 7)
[8.] Ibid. (return to footnote 8)
[9.] James Montgomery. (return to footnote 9)
[10.] Anna B. Warner. (return to footnote 10)
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