But the connections with other scriptural images are obvious, the clearest one being that out of those who are in Christ will flow streams of living water. Stepping up from water to a watershed in its other meaning brings more theological reflection: a watershed is "an important period, time event or factor that marks a change or division." (Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary) Can't you see the metaphor? We need to be people who create events or are catalysts for periods in people's lives to make important choices happen, changes for the better, changes that may mean a decisive turn, even a division that needs to happen between the old and the new in their lives. What an exciting metaphor to contemplate - to be a living watershed!!
Now to gather in more wool from my week: the message on Sunday evening by our pastor used a metaphor from the news story of a collision between a bread truck and a steel truck on the Burlington skyway. She called her talk "When Bread Meets Steel". She said this was the stuff of the Christian life - negotiating the collisions in our lives between the soft life giving things and the harsh realities. Those sorts of collisions are also watersheds.
Now I'm going to jump even more with my metaphors: steel looks negative in this previous story, but there is a way in which we can see it positively. More on that in a moment. To keep connected to our watershed metaphor let's imagine that as we give life through living water and are people who continually supply that, in Christ's strength and abundance, then we, like the bread of life, provide food for the journey on which such collisions happen. And we can only have the strength to withstand life's tough things ourselves and be watersheds for others if we ourselves have met a lot of steel, and had the strength of the steel built into our very beings.
Streams in the Desert speaks to this again, on this very day I am writing:
I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in the great ship, building or bridge. He knew this because his testing room revealed it.
It is often so with God's children. God does not want us to be like vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel, able to bear twisting and crushing to the uttermost without collapse.
He wants us to be, not hothouse plants, but storm-beaten oaks, not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind, but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms. To make us such He must needs bring us into His testing room of suffering. Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God's testing room of faith.
And if you feel dragged around in my dance with words and metaphors, please forgive me and take what you will out of my indulgence. I will end with yet another metaphor that came alive again this week for me, about words and their uses. I had to ask forgiveness for offending and hurting people with my words on several occasions, and I remembered the slogan I once hung over my desk and should definitely place prominently again: "O Lord, may my words be sweet today, for tomorrow I may have to eat them".
As I can't get away from metaphors this week, may I say that I hope there is life in my words this week for you, as bread or as water, and may they strengthen you as you develop the steel you need to withstand the storms of life.