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September 6, 2011 / windlessly

Be a hose, not a beaker

Metaphors are my favorite literary device to use. I don’t mean to bring you back to memories of English class and rhetoric analysis and all that, but metaphors can be extremely powerful. The act of comparing something directly to a common or well-known object immediately creates a connection in your mind, a vivid picture that is summoned in just one or two words. Take a regular garden hose, for example. I could use imagery to describe it- “Our hose, green and made of a tough synthetic rubber, coils in a pile from the spigot and around the house, hard to distinguish from the long grass.” Or, I could be a bit more efficient and use a metaphor. “Our hose is a snake that slithers around the house.” Think of metaphors as a key to a bank. Inside the bank are safes containing information you already know about certain objects or things. A snake, you know, can be green and have tough, scaly skin. It can coil up or stretch around a yard. The metaphor simply accesses that database of knowledge that you already have, using a short one or two words instead of long, arduous descriptions to provide the same effect.
The Bible, whether you believe in it or not yet, is an amazing yet timeless text. It uses metaphors everywhere. We are the sheep. Jesus is our Shepard. There are the fruits of the spirit. God is the light. His Word is our bread. During the Last Supper (Luke 22:7-22), for example, Jesus takes the bread and specifically said, “This is my body which is given for you.” Then he takes the wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” There are more metaphors than I could list.
But one stands out more than the others in the Old Testament, and that is water. Water can be seen as a universal metaphor that is used not only in the Bible but in all different cultures. All creatures need it to survive. Therefore it represents life. In the Bible it also symbolizes truth and knowledge. My Young Life leaders did an awesome job (well, they’re all-around awesome anyways but did a particularly good job) in explaining it to us last Tuesday. We were looking at John 7:38, and there it was again, the metaphor of water. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” What? you must be thinking. Streams of water will flow from within a person? Of course water will not literally gush out of a person’s pores. In our awesome data bank of knowledge though, we know that water is clear. It is refreshing, cool, good to drink, necessary for life. In this particular verse, the streams of water represent joy, hope, and love, anything and everything that is good that can come out of a person, whether through words or actions or body language. But you know what? My Young Life leaders reminded us that streams have to have a source: Jesus.
And here comes the genius of the lesson that my leaders presented. It is quite clear that the living water does not come from the person themselves. So since we’re using the metaphor of water to represent companionship, kindness, knowledge, and love, why not take it a step further and compare humans to containers holding that water? A hose is a conduit for water- it transfers that which is not its own. We as humans have nothing good of our own, but when God works through us (like water through a hose), then as John 7:38 says, “streams of living water will flow from within us.” In real life, these streams of water will be visible as a warm greeting from a stranger, an act of random kindness, sympathy from a friend, encouragement from your siblings, or anything else that is positive and loving. It may still sound confusing to non-Christians for the Bible to use words like “living water” and all these other metaphors, but it’s alright, I encourage anyone to look more into this on their own time. (Heck, it was even confusing to me when I first tried to understand it). 
But putting things in terms of common objects makes it easier to understand. The water is not mine, it is the living water of Jesus. I simply want to be a hose and conduct some of His love and knowledge and Word to the world, not be a beaker (as my Young Life leader put it, he just had to introduce chemistry terms into it) and keep the water bottled up and stagnant. “Be a river, not a swamp.” The things that I say and the Bible verses that I quote are not my words at all, because they don’t originate from me, but from God. So I’m content to stay here and keep typing, hoping that something I write will help people in some small way. And hoping that my previous English teachers will come across this post and realize that they did a good job in teaching me about metaphors after all. 
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