Awhile back, one of our pastors asked me if I would give a short talk at an upcoming women’s retreat. I had planned to attend this event, but I wasn’t planning to speak at it! I felt all the excuses quickly building in my mind like a Tetris game. And my response was the usual one: FEAR.
A litany of anxieties began to go through my thoughts:
- I don’t really have anything to offer.
- I have no idea what to say or do.
- I’m not as good of a communicator or teacher as “______ (fill in the blank)”.
- I’m not equipped or trained enough.
After much arguing with God, and processing with trusted friends, I very reluctantly agreed to give the short talk at the retreat.
In that moment, though, I realized something. This was the pattern of my life: feeling fear and reluctance towards opportunities to give.
See for me, listening to sermons, going to conferences, devouring books, journaling my experiences, receiving healing prayer for past wounds were all a regular part of my life. And I loved it! However, something always was off. I noticed that I felt like I was standing still – sluggish and stale.
Imagine for a moment a pool of water that has no outflow. This was me – always receiving and rarely giving. The result: I had become stagnant. I was a container only. And the life within was becoming stale.
Inflow AND Outflow
If we are followers of Jesus, we are to have an inflow and outflow to our lives. Jesus was filled up by the Father AND he gave to those around him. We are to have this same kind of life. We are called to be springs of living water and not containers.
Living and loving like Jesus is marked by being filled AND giving it away. When we live like Jesus we become like a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (Jn 4:13)
If you’re a visual learner like me, seeing helps you understand. It’s why I find pictorial tools and matrices so helpful. So, here’s a matrix showing this dynamic of having an inflow and an outflow to our lives:
Strong inflow, but low outflow
The result here is that we are SWELLING UP. Because we are always receiving we become bloated, stagnant and stale. The “water” within us is not flowing but is still. And therefore it is not a place for life to flourish. We can become hoarding and in the end “fat” in this quadrant. Here we are essentially consumers.
Low inflow and low outflow
In this quadrant we are DRYING OUT. We are neither being filled, nor pouring out. We become like a dry desert, where nothing is happening and everything is dead.
Strong outflow, but low inflow
This is where we are TRICKLING OUT. We are endlessly running on empty because we are giving constantly. We are exhausted at the pace. We feel as though we could faint at any moment. Burn out is always just around the corner. And honestly, what we do give is not abundant, healthy life. Here we are the providers.
Strong inflow AND strong outflow
When we have a strong inflow AND a strong outflow — we are SPRINGING UP. We become like an actual spring of living water. We are giving and taking, being filled and passing it on, investing and receiving – we become like the spring of eternal life Jesus talks about in the gospel of John. Here we are partners: Partners with a living God who is alive and active in us and through us.
What holds us back?
So, what keeps us from having a strong inflow of receiving? And what keeps us from having a strong outflow of giving? What kinds of internal and external resistors are keeping us from being a spring of living water?
I’m sure it is different for everyone. For me, it was fear. This kept me in the top left quadrant for a long, long time.
Hearing God say that what I have is needed gives me to courage to keep stepping out in generosity. I may not have the same gifting and competencies as others, but what I do have may be exactly what someone needs. It’s not better, just different.
The world NEEDS me and YOU! What God has done in us may bring breakthrough, healing and freedom for someone else. And keeping it to ourselves, may cause them to stay stuck!
- Jesus promised us that whoever is thirsty to come to him and drink – that rivers of living water will flow from within them. (Jn 7:37-38)
- We are also encouraged in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. The words “be filled” is more of a sense of “BE BEING filled” – it’s a continual process.
- And in Revelation 22, it says that waters of life flow from the throne of God, and on either side of this river of water trees of life grow and their leaves are for the healing of the nations.
This is the life that is available and within reach for each of us today. The life to which we are called, is one of partnership with a loving, willing and powerful God who chooses to use his people to bring healing to the nations. What an amazing life!
How about you? Which quadrant to you tend to live in? What internal or external pressures keep you there? What one step can you take today to respond to the call to be a spring of living water?