Thursday, June 30, 2005


Where Did the Water Go
By Janice Price

If God can use my pets to teach me spiritual lessons, I shouldn’t be surprised at anything else he uses to help keep my focus on him. But I was surprised this morning to realize there is a spiritual lesson in the malfunctioning toilet tank.

The water has been turning itself on and off for a while now. It’s annoying, but who has time to spend on things that aren’t actually broken. Early the other morning I decided to take a quick look inside the tank. Big mistake. I barely touched the floating ball before it actually was floating and water was pouring out onto the bathroom floor.

I have heard you can fix or at least do a temporary emergency repair on just about anything using duct tape. This is not true and floating balls have been added to my list of duct tape failures.

I turned off the water and tried to contact my landlord, or my brother, or anyone with two hands and a pair of galoshes. I reached someone who said she could fix it later in the day. She replaced all the innards except the flapper ball and tested it.

Later I heard water running again, so yesterday morning I left another message on my brother’s answering machine. He suggested the flapper might need replacing or merely a cleaning since gritty dirt had recently gotten into my tap water and also into the toilet tank. I cleaned the dirt out of the tank. It still turned on and off at intervals.

Early this morning I lifted the tank lid to check the water level and stared in disbelief. The tank was empty. Where did the water go?

A neighbor tells me the flapper ball isn’t set right or needs replacing and I’m fortunate the new part isn’t working right or I would have to hock my landlord’s house to pay the next water bill. (If you’re interested in how a toilet works, there’s a toilet flushing demonstration at )

As I was reading the Bible this morning, I realized the where-did-the-water-go feeling was familiar. It’s the same stomach-dropping sensation as where-did-the Spirit-go? I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. You read the Bible, meditate on it, pray, rise for the day all enthused and feeling ready to take on the world, but before you can leave the house, you’re kicking the dog (not literally!) or scaring the children.

For example, Tuesday I rose at 5 a.m., took out the dogs, and spent time with God in prayer and study. Refreshed, I proceeded to finish my routine so I could be somewhere at 8:30. Then the toilet broke and my routine flew out the window, shattering the glass. I was in a tizzy, trying to find someone to help me later in the day, getting washed and dressed, feeding the animals and accomplishing a host of little things that eat into the morning, and trying to be almost on time for my appointment.

Every way I turned, I was tripping over an animal, most often one named Buddy. First, they heard, “Get out of my way.” Soon it was, "Get out of my way," in a louder, more forceful tone. And in no time at all, it was a screeching, "GET OUT OF MY WAAAAAY!" Where did the calm, refreshed, spiritual-minded Jan go?

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "rivers of living water." So why would it seem as if the water suddenly stops flowing, even temporarily, and drains away, much like the water in the tank is doing at this very moment. The Spirit doesn’t enter through a hole in our heads and drain through a hole in our feet when we’re bad or when we don’t feel his presence.

We are to walk by faith, not by feelings, but we keep a variety of stoppers on hand that impede the flow of living water: anxiety, panic, fear, anger, resentment, bitterness, impatience, to name a few. Yes, I was a little anxious and impatient the other day but, irregardless, the Spirit didn’t drain away. It only seemed that way for a moment.

It’s a challenge to walk through a day without popping a stopper to impede the flow of the Spirit. I have never actually met anyone who has pretended to be successful at it. We’re more likely to get off our knees, fresh from prayer, infused with enthusiasm and determination, stub a toe and scream something stupid.

My neighbor Charles has been here to check the problem with the tank. He told me what part I need to buy, and how to remove the old and install the new flapper. If I have any problems, he’ll come back to help – or at least to supervise.

Soon, I hope, the toilet is going to be fixed and the tank will hold water again. It’s a modern convenience I take for granted, until it isn’t working properly.

The Holy Spirit shows us what problems in our nature need to be corrected or eliminated. Change is a process, a lifetime journey. If we have any problems – and we will – the Holy Spirit is with us to help, guide and supervise. We should never take the Holy Spirit for granted. And when we do pop a stopper in to impede the Spirit’s flow, he will make us aware of our error, but we need to be sensitive to his leading.

© 2005 Janice Price

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