Most Friday mornings, we would wake up and take the dog and stroll around the lake a couple of times. We would stop at a little coffee shop, talk about our week, and what we were looking forward to for the weekend. Really, it was just a time for us to breathe and to be refreshed. It’s been quite some time since we’ve been able to enjoy it, but hopefully one of these days, we’ll find our way back.
I remember one particular day, while strolling along, we noticed an unfamiliar, dirty-looking film on the top of the water. We didn’t remember the lake ever looking like that, and we were trying to figure out what was different, or what might have caused that film to appear. What we soon realized was that the fountains that were usually bursting with life in the middle of Lake Ella were still turned off after a mass power outage around the city. The water was stagnant. There was no movement. There was no life. Lake Ella had turned into a body of water that was dying, that was starting to rot. It definitely did not look like something we would have wanted to dive into or be refreshed by. It was pretty unappealing, to say the least.
In their absence, I realized the importance of the fountains.
Because fountains create movement, circulation, activity.
They bring air and life and breath.
They refresh. They revive. They renew.
And I can’t help but think that maybe, in a similar way, fountains are important for our faith, too. Maybe not literal fountains, obviously. But it’s so easy for faith to become like that lifeless water – stagnant, boring, a lifeless routine. It becomes okay to just go through the motions. An icky film slowly starts to develop and it suffocates our faith, so that it’s something we have no desire to dive into, to explore, to cultivate.
I wonder if you’ve felt that at all in 2020. I know at times it’s been true for me. Especially when so many of the regular rhythms and practices I’ve depended on in my faith, like gathering together for worship each week and being in real-live community, have had to change for the time being.
In thinking about this, I’m drawn to Psalm 36. Verses 5-9 read,
Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
When Scripture talks about fountains, in the same way Psalm 36 describes God as the fountain of life, it obviously isn’t referring to the manmade fountains found at Lake Ella. Instead, the word fountain could also be interpreted as a natural spring, bubbling up from beneath the ground. The water flows from a deep source we can’t get to on our own, and it offers fresh, new life and movement and clarity. Back when the words of Scripture were written, a spring probably seemed a lot like a miracle.
I think that’s important to keep in mind - that our faith is ultimately dependent on God’s faithfulness, on grace and on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God is the sustaining fountain of life.
But I also know that we have a part to play. That grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort. Yes, God is THE fountain, THE spring of life, but I get to participate, to create space and pay attention to the fountains that keep my faith moving and growing and active.
I’m finding that it is so important to identify my fountains – to name them, to prioritize them. For me, taking a walk is a fountain - it’s an opportunity for me to breathe deep and slow down. Authentic relationships are a fountain – they are a reminder that I’m not alone is this crazy thing called life. Writing is a fountain – it allows me to think and reflect and process all the things. Speaking is a fountain – it’s when I feel most passionate and alive. Scripture and prayer are fountains – they reveal a little bit more about who God is and who I am in relation to God, and they help me feel close. Serving others is a fountain - laying down my agenda and my privilege to lift someone else up, doing what I can to make a difference for someone in need. Listening is a fountain - discovering how I could better reflect the characteristics of Jesus. And along those same lines, right now, school is a fountain - I am learning so much and I can’t wait to share more.
Those are just a handful of mine, but I wonder what yours might be? What breaths life into your faith? What helps you feel close and connected to God? And if you don’t quite have an answer, I’d invite you to consider what some of those fountains could be for you. Because I’m learning that among other things, the fountains in our lives help us remember. They create space to remember Psalm 36, God’s unfailing love, faithfulness, righteousness, justice, care, comfort, provision and goodness. And that memory inspires us to hope, action, and abundant life with God.
Today, if your faith feels stagnant, remember the fountains that refresh, revive, and renew. May they remind us of God’s goodness and inspire us to participate in the hope of God’s Kingdom.