Reservoir or Canal

I decided to share the writings of one of my favorite theologians, Howard Thurman. I admit that I did not become familiar with he and his writings until I my first year of seminary, but when I discovered him there was an immediate connection to his words. I actually took a class completed dedicated to Howard Thurman and thoroughly enjoyed delving into the mind of this God-man! Anyway, this is one of his writings that I love, so I’m sharing; these are his words, not MINE, I hope you enjoy!

To learn more about the man, the mystic, the theologian go to –

Reservoir or Canal

Are you a reservoir or a canal or a swamp? The distinction is literal. The function of a canal is to channel water; it is a device by which water may move from one place to another in an orderly and direct manner. It holds water in a temporary sense only; it holds it in transit from one point to another. The function of the reservoir is to contain, to hold water. It is a large receptacle designed for the purpose, whether it is merely an excavation in the earth or some vessel especially designed. It is a place in which water is stored in order that it may be available when needed. In it provisions are made for outflow and inflow.

A swamp differs from either. A swamp has an inlet but no outlet. Water flows into it but there is no provision made for water to flow out. The result? The water rots and many living things die. Often there is a strange and deathlike odor that pervades the atmosphere. The water is alive but apt to be rotten. There is life in a swamp but it is stale.

The dominant trend of a man or woman’s life may take on the characteristics of a canal, reservoir, or swamp. The important accent is on the dominant trend. There are some lives that seem ever to be channels, canals through which things flow. They are connecting links between other people, movements, purposes. They make the network by which all kinds of communications are possible. They seem to be adept at relating needs to sources of help, friendlessness to friendliness. Of course, the peddler of gossip is also a canal. If you are a canal, what kind of things do you connect?

Or are you a reservoir? Are you a resource which may be drawn upon in times of others’ needs and your own as well? Have you developed a method for keeping your inlet and your outlet in good working order so that the cup which you give is never empty? As a reservoir, you are a trustee of all the gifts God has shared with you. You know they are not your own.

Are you a swamp? Are you always reaching for more and more, hoarding whatever comes your way as your special belongings. If so, do you wonder why you are friendless, why the things you touch seem ever to decay? A swamp is a place where living things often sicken and die. The water in a swamp has no outlet.

Canal, reservoir, or swamp – which? – Taken from Meditations of the Heart – Howard Thurman


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