Vessel-Abandonment and the New Year

January 1, 2012. A day for new beginnings. New challenges, new goals, and new dreams. What plans are you bringing to the Lord this year? What perceived needs are you praying on this day that the Jesus will meet specifically and graciously? Is it a newly developed need, or one that has consumed your history in longevity?

I am reminded this day of the woman at the well in John 4. She really wasn’t expecting to meet with the Lord at all. It was just another day. Maybe that’s where you are. Today is just another day. The “New Year” comes around predictably and regardless of the resolutions or goals you set, things seem to kindof hum along at their normal speed. “Why should 2012 be any different from 2011? Or 2010? Or the rest of my life to date?”

When we think of desperate need, we often expect a cataclysmic event that will change the course of time and history itself to solve our problems for us. Something metaphysical. Something supernatural. Something amazing. That’s who this Samaritan woman met that day… on her day of new beginnings. SomeOne metaphysical. SomeOne supernatural. SomeOne amazing. The Messiah Himself.

The social and spiritual outcast of her society. This woman was a failure by most standards. Married 5 times and now living with a man who was not her husband. Seemingly, she had given up on relationships. She was “looking for love in too many places, looking for love in all the wrong faces,” as the song goes. Maybe she finally realized that the common denominator of all her failed love attempts was… her. And she just decided to live outside the marriage bond now, to guard against the potential wounds that she knew would come eventually. Her only expectation was hurt. She knew it would come. It was only a matter of time. But then… Jesus showed up.

She followed her normal routine. Normal day. Nothing special. Need water. Take jug. Go to well. Draw water. Add hopelessness. A dash of regret. Stir vigorously. Repeat daily to survive. She took her water jug and made the walk outside the city limits to Jacob’s Well, where she would draw the water that would perpetuate her pointless existence for one more day. But something happened. Something unexpected. She met Jesus, and He offered her something better. Water that will “become a well of water springing up from within for eternal life,” (John 4:14). Water that would end the perpetual thirst and meaninglessness of menial daily survival. And she believed Him.

There is a lot to learn from this passage. But today, I just want to focus on verse 28:

Then the woman left her water jar, went into town…

She had brought with her to the well that day only one thing. One item that characterized her menial existence. Only one possession which was metaphorically representative of her very being. A used, faded, EMPTY water jug. The whole reason this Samaritan woman went to the well was to fill this jug. She knew it would last only a day, then she’d be empty again. Just like her failed marriages. Satisfactory for a short time, but destined to dry up at some point. Hopeless. Meaningless. Empty.

When she found the Savior and accepted this new water – which no longer had to be poured into the empty cistern from without, but rather, would spring up from within – when she found Jesus, that is, she traded in perpetual emptiness for perpetual abundance.  Talk about a new beginning. Remember this one thing which she brought with her to the well? This one empty vessel that metaphorized her own existence? The one that had to be constantly filled with that which fades and is expended… and then repeated from without endlessly? She left it behind. “The woman left her water jar, and went into town…

She left it behind! What interests me approaching a new year, is that many people set goals or make resolutions, hoping for something new and fresh… but what they leave with is the same old jar containing a false-hope that will only deplete and need filling again. And again. And again. It’s a hopelessness-perpetuating mechanism for basic survival. Bring my empty dreams into the well of the new year. Add expendable basic necessity. Use sparingly over the course of 365 days. Repeat.

Unfading joy and meaningful existence does not spring up from within a dried-up, limited vessel. It springs up from within a new creation. The requirement? Leave the old vessel behind. Christians, too, need to learn from this. What we are looking for and what we need are not always synonymous. What if you bring your cistern to Jesus this year and He wants to give you something completely different? Will you reject His offer for what is comfortable and familiar? Or will you leave your expectations behind and be filled with His?

If it is perpetual mediocrity you are seeking this year, then by all means, fill your vessel and take it back to your comfortable life. But if it is meaningfulness, purpose, and vitality you want, then you must leave the old vessel behind. I’m going to end this blog with the lyrics to a Casting Crowns song made popular a few years back entitled, “Somewhere in the Middle.”

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me

 

Grace and Peace,

Tony