Purposeful living or stagnation?

Reprinted from The Christian Science Monitor

Two springs pour forth in the shade of the forest, one warm and gushing, the other cold and peaceful. Their waves rush joyously down over their rocky beds, then unite and glisten in the rays of the morning sun. Thus begins the symphonic picture of the Moldau River as painted in music by renowned Czechoslovakian composer Bedřich Smetana.

The Moldau, the longest river in the Czech Republic, is almost 300 miles long, flowing from its source, those two streams in the Bohemian forest, finally to empty into the Elbe River. As you listen to Smetana’s composition, you can almost hear the Moldau grow from its humble beginnings into a mighty river.

I love the mental picture of that river, flowing with purpose, rolling on past farmland and forests, carrying boats, giving of itself, perhaps providing a refreshing drink to birds and animals, supplying water for farmers’ fields and beauty to all who gaze upon it. To me it typifies the constant flow of life, coming from a hidden source and continuing in eternal existence. The Moldau is not only a thing of beauty but it also has a worthwhile function.

In contrast is the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River and some small canals that drain into it. But unlike other seas, it has no outlet – no river or stream originates from the Dead Sea – and, as a result, water leaves only by evaporation, leaving behind a high concentration of salinity. Over time the water has become so salty that it does not support life; hence, the sea’s name. Many years ago, the Dead Sea was much larger than it is today and was not as salty, but lack of an outlet and the resulting stagnation have left it lifeless, purposeless in the cycle of life.

When I think about the Dead Sea, with no outlet, and the vital, living Moldau, I can’t help considering that contrast as a metaphor for our lives. I ponder which one have I become, and often think it would be wise for us all to ask ourselves often: “Will I be the Moldau today? Or the Dead Sea? Do I have a sense of purpose? Am I a living, bubbly river of joy, happiness, and selflessness; am I willingly receiving God’s love? Or am I closed off and aloof, not wanting to share all the good I have and the lessons I have learned? Am I perhaps satisfied to sit and do little, even while I have much to share?”

The temptation for some folks as they reach retirement age is to, in effect, “shut down.” You may have witnessed it to some extent in otherwise wonderful, talented, loving people who accept the general world belief that older people don’t have much to offer or can’t be very productive. A longtime friend recently asked why I kept so busy. This friend said: “When I retired ... I retired! I don’t do anything.” I thought to myself, “But you have so much to give, so much to share of your experience, so much love to impart to a thirsty world.”

That conversation inspired me to keep moving! I have found it helpful to ask myself: “Am I living in a way that benefits others? Or am I living only for myself, my limited goals and objectives? Am I becoming saltier and saltier, filling up with no outlet?”

Each one of us has the innate ability to be like the Moldau, to support and to give, to shine our reflected light to all – especially to those who are seeking love and companionship, maybe themselves searching for a more meaningful life, maybe just needing a gentle touch or a warm handshake and a smile.

In that book that contains remedies for everything we need, the Bible, Jesus sets the example for us to follow, selflessly sharing what he had with all who were receptive. Jesus, that loyal servant of his Father, whose life defined the phrase “sense of purpose,” whose every breath reflected the Creator as divine Love, Life, and Mind, shared the “living waters,” the healing truth of God’s love for humanity, and he blessed all whom he encountered.

May we all leave behind a Dead Sea life and choose the Moldau, the living waters, today and always.

Adapted from “The Moldau and the Dead Sea” in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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