Spring has sprung!
That means most of the grass in my lawn has turned green.
But there are always significant patches of yellow and brown, either because my automatic sprinklers aren’t reaching all the areas they’re supposed to, or it’s been a really hard winter.
So, every year about this time, I pull the old hoses and lawn sprinklers out of storage and try to get it all working again.
This year it turned out to be a comedy of errors—and a lesson on living out the Christian life.
I attached a large stand-up sprinkler to the hose. I made sure I had screwed the old hose into the faucet on the house. And I turned the spigot on.
Immediately, I was shocked by a blast of cold water that hit the back of my right calf—the very last place I wanted the water to go. I’m still nursing the scar from my Achilles tendon surgery on my right ankle. I had been trying to keep it dry to prevent yet another infection, so this was absolutely the last place I wanted to get wet!
The problem was a bad gasket in the fitting to my hose dispenser. I quickly turned off the water, lazily wrestled the hose around so that at least the spray wouldn’t hit my leg again, and redirected what was left of the spray to a plant that would appreciate the moisture a whole lot more than I had.
So, I tried again. Still there was no water coming out of the head of that distant sprinkler. There must be a kink in the hose, I thought. The spigot and the hose dispenser were still in the cold of the morning shadows. I couldn’t find any kink in the hose I had pulled off the dispenser, so I pulled off its entire length. Then there were many kinks in the tightly wound hose. The problem was, they were stubborn. I tried pushing the edges of the flattened hose together where the kinks were, but the hose stubbornly resisted because it was cold and hard. I pulled as much of the hose as I could out into the sunshine beyond the shadows, so the sun would warm it and it would be compliant and allow the water to flow.
That done, it was time for another attempt. I turned the spigot on full blast once again . . . and again, nothing!!!
What could possibly be wrong this time? I wondered.
I took a closer look at the idle sprinkler. Water was spurting into the grass from the hose, seemingly. So at least it was getting that far. I presumed I had pulled another “Jim Wallace.” In other words, I thought I had somehow forgotten to attach the sprinkler after all.
So off went the spigot once again, and I limped out to fix my lamebrain mistake. But I had attached the sprinkler to the hose. The problem was now with the sprinkler. The screw-on cap opposite where the hose was attached to the sprinkler had been broken. The entire top was gone so that the water was now simply blowing right through the body of the sprinkler, rather than being redirected upward to the pipe and the blades that would whirl to distribute the life-giving liquid to the lawn.
What to do? I’m no great mechanic, but I remembered I had an old sprinkler lying around nearby that probably had a cap. I grabbed that, made the switch, and finally, with a turn of a faucet, the water had reached my goal! The blades at the top of the sprinkler were whirring and now there was at least a chance that life would return to that dead patch of grass.
It reminded me so much of all the things that can go wrong in trying to let Christ live His life through us.
First, there’s that vital connection of the hose to the faucet, and the faucet’s got to be turned on. We’ve got to be connected to the source of life—that’s Christ. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Of course, that begins with repentant faith in Christ. Then there’s the daily prayer for the filling of the Holy Spirit and a commitment to yield to His direction. Then we’re connected to the source of power and life—the Holy Spirit representing Christ in us: “ I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20).
But there can still be problems.
Just like when the water became stopped up at the hose dispenser and sprayed out in the wrong direction, we can resist the Holy Spirit. After we’ve said yes to God, at any moment we can say no. We can be in a place where He is ready to direct and bring us into the fullness of His blessing and fruitfulness. We know exactly what He wants us to do. But like a stubborn horse or mule that requires a bit and bridle (see Psalm 32), we can say no. We can rebel, just as Israel did in the wilderness when God, through Moses, directed them to possess the Promised Land (see Acts 7:35-51). And God’s intended blessing of a new life finds no place to express itself in our lives.
Or we can quench the Spirit as I Thessalonians 5:19 suggests: “Do not quench the Spirit.” God may want to do the miraculous through us. Just like the cold and hardened hose was kinked and resisted responding to my attempts to push and pull it open, so our hearts can become cold and hardened in unbelief. What is needed is the sunlight and warmth of God’s Word—because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (see Romans 10:17). It’s when we expose ourselves regularly to the Word of God in our devotions or listening to it being taught that we become believing and willing–even excited–to have the Spirit display His power and life through us.
Finally, we can grieve the Holy Spirit through sin—”Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). We can let the sins of bitterness, anger, selfishness, pride, angry words, self-will, deceit and even theft, the sins spoken of in the context of Ephesians 4:30, control us so that the Holy Spirit has no avenue for expression. Sin causes a huge leak, even a blowout, with respect to God’s power in our lives. As the water blew randomly through the sprinkler when there was no stopper to direct it, the Holy Spirit can’t work to His full loving, lifegiving expression in our lives if there is sin.
What’s needed in all these cases, whether we resist, quench or grieve the Spirit, is a turning from our sin and our ways to the Holy Spirit’s influence, control and power–yes, repentance. My final solution with the sprinkler problem–supplying a solid cap to the other side of the sprinkler–forced the water to turn upward and to finally make its way to the head of the sprinkler’s blades, distributing the lifegiving water to the badly parched lawn that so desperately needed it.
The Lord wants us all to be conduits of His Spirit and the lifegiving effect it has on all who are around us. When we recognize that however we resist, quench or grieve the Spirit, we only perpetuate the ugliness that comes from a winter devoid of God’s lifegiving power. When we realize that God’s blessings only come when we fully yield to the lifegiving blessings Christ wants us to experience, then perhaps we’ll be diligent to fix whatever hinders His power–even His life–from flowing through our lives.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).