I drove to Bainbridge in May for a high-school graduation ceremony. Our granddaughter, Melanie, was celebrating the conclusion of a wonderful experience at Grace Christian Academy. Expressions of faith were common among participants, which gave a much-needed boost to my confidence in the future of our country.
Maggie Bridges Kearney, Miss Georgia of 2014, delivered the graduation address. The former beauty queen is now a wife, mother, and medical student. A lovely young lady with a charmed life was my immediate impression, so I expected her to rally the troops with a pep talk on attaining stellar goals.
Instead, she gave a touching account of personal failures and encouraged the graduates to look beyond situations that can rob us of joy. Such an accomplished woman seemed an unlikely candidate to understand failure so well. Her poignant, first-hand experiences, however, reminded me that assumptions are often unreliable.
Jane and I took separate vehicles to Bainbridge, so I spent two hours singing old country songs with the folks at Willie’s Roadhouse. Willie calls those tunes of yesterday classics. That strikes me as a perfect term for a growing number of friends, but that’s a story for another day.
A classic of another kind, though slowly disappearing, can still be found on two-lane roads. An abandoned brick building with D. M. DISMUKE CO. painted on the wall left me wondering what stories it might tell. It was a thriving store back when the area was more populous than evidence now indicates. I found a picture of the building online, noting it was part of the Graves community. That name seems somberly appropriate for a settlement where tombstones now outnumber residents.
Another site that grabbed my attention was a lovely pond just a few yards off the highway. The location was ideal, a serene setting with scattered shade trees. A white gazebo looked freshly painted as did the rails on its long walkway. The only thing missing for a Norman Rockwell scene was water. It was as dry as the bones mentioned in Ezekiel 37.
Multiple factors are essential for good ponds. Shape and landscaping are important for aesthetics. And depth is critical as shallow water leads to problems with algae. Having a sealed bottom and cored dam that don’t leak are vital. Otherwise, it’s like trying to fill a tub which has no stopper. But even if all those elements are in place, without water it’s just a dry hole.
Pond management, I admit, is a deep subject of which I have a shallow knowledge, so I’m just skimming the surface. That dry bottom, however, reminded me of something Jesus spoke of. Living water is what He called it in the fourth chapter of John.
Jesus said he’ll give us living water if we ask. He made it clear, however, we need to keep our vessels clean and ready for use. Just as a pond with a poorly sealed bottom allows water to seep out, so it is with faith if we don’t maintain it.
Spiritual seepage is often so gradual it’s hardly noticeable. We may even be able to discreetly conceal the dropping water table to those driving by. And sometimes we find comfort by the shallow puddles of others. If the water is deep enough for them, we figure it’s okay for us too.
A dry or shallow spiritual pond is no doubt a serious failure, a tragedy of immense magnitude. But Maggie Bridges Kearney encouraged us to look beyond our failures. She would no doubt tell us the solution is ours for the asking.
I don’t know what’s in store for The Class of 2022, not for today or decades down the road. I hope the disheartenment of personal failures will be temp