“He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.”
–Psalm 107:33, 35
“Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”
I was five when I decided I wanted a turtle. Not a lame, domesticated turtle from the pet store at the mall—what fun would that be?—but a free-range, all-natural turtle, the real McCoy. How does one obtain a wild turtle? Lure it, of course. And what would lure a turtle into the cracked clay backyard of red brick Georgia home on a scorching, draught-dried summer’s day? Water, naturally.
I had a plan: I would revive the parched creek bed at the bottom of the hill. I’d fill it with water until it flowed like the springs of Jericho; then my turtle would materialize. It was foolproof.
I ran to the barn, scrounged up an old blue bucket, and got to work. I filled the bucket at the spigot on the side of the house; then, clutching the handle in one hand and lifting the counterweight of my opposite arm to shoulder height, I ran down the hill. The pail lost more water to splashing than it transferred to the creek, but I didn’t care. With a heave, I dumped what water remained onto the thirsty ground. It pooled for half a second, then vanished. I looked on in disbelief.
Undeterred, I ran back up the hill to the spigot and filled the bucket once more. I lugged it down to the creek bed; by this time the ground recorded only a faint memory of dampness. Still, I dumped out the second pailful, and the earth promptly swallowed it up. I made at least a dozen trips before one of two things happened: either my mom caught on and reprimanded me for wasting water, or I simply gave up. Regardless, the turtle never came.
So it is with my work. Day after day, I fill up my bucket with articles and protocols, lectures and meetings, lab tests and discharge summaries. On my way down the hill, facts and figures slosh out. At the bottom, I pour out presentations and papers, PowerPoints and progress notes. They barely register before being slurped up and sending me back for another tiring haul. Where is it all going? What is it doing?
And so it is with my soul. I pour out songs and Scripture, prayers for friends and promises of their answer. Some days—treasured days—my soul retains a puddle. But puddles do not keep. What of a full-bodied creek? Fresh and cool, fluid and abiding; life-giving, even. In the clay-caked trenches, such an image seems so far fetched as to make my arms grow weary just thinking of the number of bucketfuls that will have to be hauled. What if I do haul them all, dump them all out, and nary a turtle springs to life?
Lord, do not let me tire in wait of improbable turtles. Keep your spring of salvation flowing, and I will haul from it every day. When I have poured out all the bucketfuls my feeble arms can carry, and have no sooner seen them disappear into dry land, grant me the faith to return to your spigot and fill my bucket anew. If you see fit, raise the water table of my soul; surface my spills to your service; call forth a parade of thirsty turtles. But if not, still tomorrow, to your springs I will return.
We’re after the turtles; you’re after the water.
“Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!”