Overflow

I was hot and tired.  It had been a long day at the office: fighting with the computer, formulating set lists, organizing my desk, and leading rehearsal.  Then it was off to dinner with my grandmother.  Now, don’t get me wrong; these were all good things.  But I was still tired.  I smiled when I thought of the iced tea waiting for me in the refrigerator and the latest episode of one of my favorite shows on TV.

But then I remembered.  We had just had new landscaping worked into our backyard, and I had promised my father that I would water the new plants once each day.  I’ll be honest, some days I forgot to do my chores.  For a moment, I considered purposely forgetting on that hot, July evening.  But I knew I couldn’t do that.  It was hot and dry, and the plants needed the life-giving, nourishing water.

So with protesting muscles and sweat trickling down my face, I retrieved the two-gallon watering can from where it had been sitting on the rocks and filled it with water from the outdoor spigot.  Then, filling the can twice more, I watered each of the nine plants.  By the way, do you know that one gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds?  Multiplied by six, that’s over fifty pounds of water!  I was tired!  True, it was only two gallons at a time, but I’m short and carrying a few extra pounds on my person as well.  I had to heft that watering can with both hands or I would tip off balance.

To be honest, the watering can was heavy and sometimes watering each day was a burden.  But it was nothing compared to the weighted burden I carried back when the summer began.  For those of you who have kept up with “Cassie Contemplates” over the summer, you are already aware that my church walked through a three-month congregational sabbatical.  When the summer began, I was far from thrilled.  I was concerned that communication would suffer and that our services would lack connectedness and engagement.  I knew that in some ways, I would have to step up in order to make things happen.  I’m a hard worker by nature, so in many ways, I was prepared to jump in with both feet in order to fix whatever issues might materialize.

I was so focused on my own strength and ability that I didn’t stop to consider that perhaps God had a greater plan for this summer.  I was lugging that heavy burden of fear and uncertainty as I walked into the sanctuary on our first sabbatical Sunday.  I knew it would take a great deal for me to let go and simply learn and grow through the process.  Little by little, God began to work in my heart, beginning with the very first message that was spoken from the stage.  I knew some heart-work needed to take place, and although it terrified me, I was ready to make the investment.

Much like the watering can as it was lifted over the very last plant, I began to feel my burden lifting.  The release that came from the out-pouring was so freeing!  God used the administrative assistant in the office to facilitate strong communication and words of encouragement.  He blessed our church, and me personally, with a pastor who shepherded our congregation through the majority of the summer.  With his engagement in our ministry, I began to explore the strengths that existed at the core of my being.  I sought to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in relation to my song choices in creating set lists.  I invested in relationships: walking with one of my worship team members through a spouse’s medical diagnosis, bringing comfort to an elderly woman in her final days, simply doing “life” with one of my best friends, and reconnecting with family.

At every turn, I could feel God’s presence.  He was the life-giving water I so desperately needed.  He overwhelmed me with His grace and mercy even when I felt I was least deserving.  He spoke through me as I led worship.  He spoke to me through each sermon and Scripture passage on Sunday mornings and in the context of adult Sunday school.  He worked within me as I embarked on a journey— pastoral care in the context of a life passing from this earth.

Near the end of the summer, it was that journey of pastoral care that suddenly resurrected the burden of fear and doubt once more.  Outside of my family, I had never been responsible for walking with a family as they said good-bye to a loved one.  I was privileged to know their loved one for a few months, therefore laying a foundation when it came to relating to the loved one and her family.  But it was still uncharted waters for me, and I was thirsty— desperate for some sort of easy roadmap.  I was not afraid to admit my lack of experience in this field, and the family was kind to me as I fumbled my way through our interactions.

When the loved one passed, I was presented with the honor of officiating this woman’s memorial service.  Although I recognized this upcoming task as the honor it was, I still felt very much inadequate.  What if I wasn’t enough for the family in their grief?  What should I say?  What should I do?  Again, my thirst for answers overwhelmed me, and I was parched.

I prayed constantly from the day the loved one became unresponsive to just minutes before the memorial service.  I was physically thirsty and spiritually desperate for the Holy Spirit to enter in and give me an out-pouring of His strength and peace.  I felt an incredible responsibility to communicate the Gospel message to this grieving family— a picture of God’s goodness even in the midst of loss.  But I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.  I needed Him to speak through me, to strengthen my voice and heart for the challenge ahead.

“Could I trouble you for a bottle of water?” I asked the funeral director two minutes before the service.  I found it difficult to swallow, my anxiety was so great.  My throat was so dry, it felt as though I had swallowed chalk.  With the promise that the bottle of water had been placed on the podium, I knew I would have to make due until the start of the service.  So I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  God was with me.  I could feel it, and He was sustaining me.  My fingers trembled as I gripped the railing alongside the stairwell.  I gathered the family around me, and we began to pray in the moments leading up to the service.

And then as we uttered the “Amen,” I was overwhelmed with complete and utter peace.  It was almost as if I had been drenched with it.  It was instantly calming and refreshing.  I wasn’t drowning in it, but it was just enough sustenance— just what I needed to see me through.  My mouth was still dry and my limbs trembling with nerves, but inside, I was at peace.

It made me think of the watering can as I filled it from the spigot.  Sometimes, the water cascaded into the can too quickly, and as a result, there would be some spill-over as the can overflowed.  In that moment, I felt as if God had blessed me with that spill-over— the overflow of His presence— in just the right amount to sustain me.

This summer has been a beautiful maze of heart-growth, relational depth, challenge and reward, and an out-pouring of His love and mercy.  It only seems fitting to conclude with a song that has been a theme of sorts as I have journeyed through these past few months.  When, or if, the time comes and I can play and sing it myself, I will.  But for now, consider downloading this beautiful rendering from Lex Buckley and allow Him to overflow in your life.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/overflow/id1115413771?i=1115414001

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