Broken Cisterns

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

My life is an endless sea of tasks, a machine churning out productive successions of non-stop accomplishments and failures. Even in sleep the rush of the world does not rest. I am a father of three, a husband, a full time employee, and a volunteer. In all this I find joy in serving, in completing tasks, making projects succeed, and watching my children grow. But in the midst of the freight train of my life, I get lonely, tired, and sometimes find myself hollow and broken. It is at these points that I have no one to turn to, because everyone is looking to me for what to do next. It is then I realize I have not taken the time to dwell with God.

I recently traveled to Romania on a mission trip, to speak to elementary, middle school, missionary, and theology students. I was there to share about how God is working in my life, in my ministry, and how God could be moving in their lives. It was a humbling and inspiring time for me. To be across the world and see the same “Spirit” that we call God here in the United States changing lives and radically moving in a place that I only knew through books and the internet. Communist rule in Romania kept a close eye on what was happening in churches and this was evident in Bucharest and other major cities, but the reach of communism did not span far into the mountains and county side. That is where I found my peace.

In the middle of my trip, my contact, a man from Romania who now lives in the US, planned to take me to the famous Orthodox Christian monasteries of Romania. One of the monasteries, Putna Monastery, is where the national hero, King Stephen the Great, is entombed. He was a great king who won many battles and built many monasteries. Putna was one of these monasteries built to thank God for his success and is among the most famous. Putna is in the mountains almost to the border of the Ukraine. It is set in a peaceful and luscious green hillside away from any major city. Entering the gates, I instantly felt a calm and peace rare to my life.

Here in the U.S., churches can host a wide number of events aside from worship. Due to location and the need for different functions, this is common among city churches. Putna on the other hand, was built for one purpose, and that was to glorify and worship God. It is now a place of pilgrimage and a bit of a museum due to all the tourists, like myself, who want to experience being there. But there was something else there. There a heaviness of “Spirit” there that is hard to explain. It was like meeting an old friend who you used to share all secrets, without fear of judgment or ridicule. There was a sense of reverence and purpose; here was a place that God has been worshipped for centuries. Although I myself am not Orthodox and still don’t completely understand the religion, I felt safe opening my heart and mind to the Lord. I have rarely experienced this presence of God by a physical place.

All the monasteries I visited in the countryside had several things in common; architecture, housing, entrance a common reverence of behavior while in the monastery. One of the commonalities was that they all had a well. A well that was still functional and with water that was drinkable. At Putna we actually drew water from it and took a drink. It simply made the whole experience come together for me. Once I had time to reflect on my time at Putna, I was drawn to the book of Jeremiah. When I came across Jeremiah 2:13, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

What have I been doing this whole time?

I work at a church, I volunteer at a church, I am surrounded by ministry and constantly doing “God’s work.” But I, like many people in the world, am desperately searching for a spiritual connection. Some people find it through exercise, drugs, knowledge, solitude, or religion. Feeling lost among crowds, searching for our place in the world, we pour ourselves into our work, art, family, or caring for others to fill this void. I came to the revelation that I too have committed a great evil. I have replaced relying on God as the giver of the living water with doing “God’s Work” as a substitute. I have not made enough time in my life to dip my cup into the “well” and draw strength and peace from the only place I know it exists. God is my source of wisdom, peace, compassion and refuge that can’t be compared. In a weird and twisted way I have replaced God’s spring of living water with a broken cistern of duty. In my case, God’s work of ministry and serving others means little without the inspiration of why I am doing it in the first place. I too, like others, have to refill my cup.

My prayer and goal this summer is to break my broken cistern and go back to relying on “the spring of living water.” There is so much wisdom and peace in the Word of God for me to draw from. Even though my life will still be full of all the tasks that need to be completed, it is time to create a space, whether physical or timely, that I do nothing but dwell with God. I will then remember, I am not alone, and although I may feel hollow at times, that is only an opportunity for God to fill me up to overflowing.

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