They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
—Jeremiah 2:13 (NRSVUE)
QUINN G. CALDWELL | It’s late August. It has just occurred to me that I should check to see if our son’s backpack from last year is still fit for use. I take it off its hook and realize that no one has touched this thing since it was slung there back in June. Terrified and then relieved that the mess inside isn’t gross and slimy, I empty out a bunch of wadded paper, candy wrappers, and full-length but inexplicably eraserless pencils.
Then I find and open his nearly empty water bottle.
Jeremiah says the big problem with trying to store water instead of relying on a flowing spring is that your cisterns always leak. I’m here to tell you that the big problem is what happens not when your cistern leaks, but when it doesn’t leak and you leave it in the warm dark for a couple months.
Perhaps it’s a question of context. Maybe if you seal water up in Jeremiah’s part of the world, it doesn’t turn noxious, doesn’t grow a slimy disk of mold on the top, won’t make you gag if you’re dumb enough to stick your nose near it. Maybe it all depends on how many times a sixth-grader has backwashed into it.
God pours gifts into the world. They are for you, but not only for you. Lock them up, and they won’t quench anybody’s thirst, least of all yours. Hide them so well that you forget about them altogether, and what starts out good and life-giving will turn on you hard, fast, and gross.
PRAYER Let your gifts fill me up, and then let me overflow. Amen.

About the Writer:
QUINN G. CALDWELL is Chaplain of the Protestant Cooperative Ministry at Cornell University. He is the author of All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas.

Source: “Running from Empty” | 2023 Lent Devotional by the Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, made up of United Church of Christ ministers and writers who collaborate on resources for people in the church, outside the church, and not sure about the church.