A half-mile from the house, a tiny creek ran east underneath the small bridge on the gravel road. The creek was so small that Paul and I could jump across it at some spots. Hickory trees, along with several other types, grew along its banks, keeping most of the little branch in the shade for most of the day. Where we drove the tractors through it to get to the hayfield, the bank was bare and cut with ruts made when we had to move from one side to the other too soon after the rains.
Just below that crossing point, was an old spring surrounded by a stone frame that angled out from the bank into the stream.
According to local lore, perhaps legend and yet more likely than most such stories, the stone retaining walls had been built by slaves. It was not some rough-hewn thing, thrown together of whatever had been at hand. The stones were cut and shaped, carefully mortared together with smooth, dressed seams. On the back and left, the walls stood about four feet tall. There was an opening on the southeast side much like a doorway but the whole thing was open at the top.
A stone threshold framed the bottom of that opening, its top surface lying just above the normal level of the creek. Together with the laid walls and natural bank, the enclosure formed a pool that overflowed the threshold, sending the spring’s clear water into the tinged flow of the creek. Paul and I did not pass that spring in the heat of summer without taking time to get a drink and wash the dirt and dust of the fields off our faces.
Were it not for the work of unknown men, the spring would have simply bubbled into the creek essentially unnoticed, its pure water immediately mixed and immediately worthless in the flow of the stream.
We need such reservoirs, held for a while in some separating container, yet still flowing into the world. We need places where we can go, people that we know who yield the work of God in their hearts and in their lives. We need to keep the walls of holiness and purity built up around the source, yet keep its flow open. Without the walls, the love and grace that God intended for healing and blessing become too quickly polluted by the streams of the world. But without the openings, there is no flow and it is the flow that keeps us cleansed and pure and brings God’s blessing into the world.
Love held too long inside, like water stored too long in an old barrel, becomes something other than what was given. Something not to be shared. We are meant to be springs, not cisterns.