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

I’ve been digging for years. The soil is sometimes sandy; it doesn’t hold its shape; the rain passes through it without leaving any moisture.  Or the soil is rocky; my small spade bends; the hole is shallow and uneven.  But I am nothing if not persistent, and I keep digging, intent to complete a well and fill it with sustaining water.  Sometimes I am digging into ministry.  I am volunteering; I am “showing up”; I am hurrying and planning and doing in a flurry of religious fervor.  Other times I am digging into reflection.  I am reading; I am listening; I am choosing this person’s words or that person’s ideas to fill in my philosophy.  But whether I am doing or listening, running or waiting, helping or hoping, the power is often draining out the bottom of me like a sieve, faster than I can replenish it on my own.

I find myself like wandering Israel, wanting fulfillment but returning to broken cisterns.  Sometimes the cisterns are obvious- bad habits, even good habits, that are not building me up in Christ.  More often the cisterns are hidden.  As an avid book lover, I read many words; I am interested in the ideas and philosophies and beliefs of many.  Yet I often turn to books, studies, and sermons before turning to the Book.  I love events: times of fellowship, activities to promote God’s love. But I do not always actively pursue God.  I am digging, and digging, and digging, but the water is shallow;  it is seeping out of cracks in my life that I cannot fill with books or studies or people.  Like the Israelites who, “have forsaken Me, the spring of Living Water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water”, my work is not met with fulfillment, no matter how fervent my attempt.  And in reflection, it seems silly.  The source of Living Water is near, but my independent digging feels useful?  My futility is laughable.

From the outside, finding God in the midst of the desert should have been easy.  There were few distractions.   There were many needs.  But God felt so far away. And the people dug and dug and dug to find water, but their attempt was futile.  And so is mine.  I want God near.  I dig in the dirt to find Him.  It gives me purpose; it makes me feel like an active participant in my faith.  But man-made cisterns are not watertight. The filling is weakened by a constant, slow emptying.  It is the opposite of a spring, a constant steady provision of water.  So how do I set aside my digging to find the Living Water?  It is reading His Word, listening to His voice, waiting on His call.  Why do I insist on complicating my life with dirt and stones and shovels, when He has simply asked me to listen and wait on Him?   

He whispers, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29:13