Picture yourself hiking through the mountains and coming across a pristine mountain stream. You are parched after journeying for miles in the summer heat, and immediately drop down to your knees to enjoy a sip of water from the flowing creek. Just before you get your first refreshing taste of water though, another hiker jumps in the stream above you and stamps through the mud to be able to get their own drink. The once pristine mountain stream is now a slurry of mud and sediment. Your fellow hiker has removed the opportunity for you to be refreshed on the journey. That would make me, well, displeased.
I was recently reading through Ezekiel 34, and was struck by the imagery. God talks about His provision for His people, but then provides this graphic illustration: “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (34:18-19, ESV)
This has caused me to step back with sincere introspection. I can be savoring God’s provision, drinking of the water that He provides me with—while mindlessly taking away that same experience from people around me. I can be so focused on myself, that I lose sight of the needs of the other sheep in the pasture. Or, to use the hiking story, I can be so focused on my own thirst that I do not recognize the same needs that people hiking with me have.
This is a tremendous season of introspection for a number of reasons. It is so easy to develop blind spots in which we are “muddying” the river for other people because we do not notice their needs. I am praying that I, that we, drink deeply from God’s mountain stream—but that we start paying a lot more attention to the other hikers on this journey with us. May God reveal to us the people that have been under our radar, the people that we simply have not noticed because we have not been looking around us. I am challenged to connect with people outside my usual circles, and be mindful of their thirst—while I get out of the mud.