By Dayna Street It is a pretty amazing fact. I have never run out of gas in my car. I am not sure why. It is certainly not because I vigilantly watch my fuel gauge. And it is definitely not because I never cut it close. In fact, over the years, I have developed quantitative language to describe the state of my vehicle’s tank when it gets dangerously close to being dry: “Good E” and “Bad E”. “Good E” means that the needle has just ventured into the Land of Empty. “Bad E” means I needed a gas station a couple of miles earlier. I am pretty sure that I have pulled into a gas station on fumes more than a few times. Just like our automobiles, we were not made to run on empty. We cannot exist in the Land of Empty and expect to thrive on our own. Dallas Willard writes, “You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you are not made to be self-sufficient.” Due to our inherent fallen nature, our tendency, even as believers, is to try to handle life on our own apart from God. Jeremiah talks about the drift we have toward self and away from God in Jeremiah 2:13:
For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
That can hold no water.
In Jeremiah’s day, a cistern was an artificial reservoir that was dug in the earth or hewn in the rock to collect and store water. Cisterns were very important in the land of Israel due to the long arid season and the relative lack of natural springs. But a broken cistern, well, it was practically worthless. Cracked rock or crumbling masonry could hold only a small quantity of dirty water, or no water at all. When our spiritual tank is empty, we often try to build our own cisterns, but our futile attempts create fractured vessels that hold no water. In vain, we try to bring fulfillment to our lives with things and stuff. Some of the things are not wrong in themselves, but when we find that we are looking to these things for satisfaction and fulfillment in life, a subtle form of cistern construction is going on. We mistakenly think these things will quench our soul’s thirst, all the while avoiding the One who can actually satisfy it. We know better, but we do it anyway. Superficial pursuits will satiate us momentarily, but will never fill the void that only Christ can fill. C.S. Lewis observes,
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Wealth. Fame. Recognition. Honor. Position. Power. Pleasure. Friends. Family. Traditions. Anything we trust besides God is a cistern at best, whose water will putrefy and leave us dabbling with mud pies in the end. What I am talking about is a heart issue. When our hearts go unchecked, we do damage to ourselves, our families, and anyone else in our sphere of influence. Looking to anything or any one other than God is idolatry; it is placing another god before Him.
Above all else, guard your heart,
For it is the wellspring of life.
The heart is extremely valuable. Just like our physical bodies need a healthy heart to live a full life, our spiritual life needs a healthy heart. That is why Solomon says “Above all else.” Our heart has to be our top priority because it determines the course of our lives. It overflows into our thoughts, words, and actions. If we allow our hearts to become unhealthy, every other area of our lives will suffer. The difference between a car and the heart is this: the car runs effectively even when the tank is 99% empty; the heart does not. We function, but not effectively. We live, but not well. We were not made to run on empty. As Nancy Spiegelberg writes:
I crawled across
With my empty cup,
Uncertain in asking
Any small drop
I had known You better,
I’d have come running
With a bucket.
At the center of heart care is the love of God. Run to Him with abandon. Let Him fill you to the brim with His love, His grace, His living water, His life.