Occasionally we will hear about water-strife in California. It was no different a century
ago. Los Angeles was growing rapidly and was in need of more and more water, but that left the farmers with less and less. Things got so bad that the struggle became known as the California Water Wars. It was in the backdrop of these wars that William Mulholland came up with the idea of a dam. St. Francis Dam would be built in case the L.A. aqueducts were destroyed by an earthquake or some other disaster. It seems however that Mulholland wanted a higher dam and ordered two 20 foot heightening projects on it. Unfortunately, he did not widen the base to the point necessary to handle the extra water-pressure.
On March 12, 1928, leaks began to appear. While there had always been seepage, there wasn’t much concern; Mulholland was called into inspect the new leaks and even stated it was safe. Within 12 hours of inspection, the dam suddenly gave way. It’s largest hunk, some 10,000 tons (that 20,000 lbs!) was found 3/4 of a mile away. The devastation that it left in its wake is nearly unimaginable.*
Such an appropriate story demonstrating the back-story: The California Water Wars, the strife over water. Water does not like to be contained. The more water, the more pressure, the more pressure, the more stress upon its structure, the more stress upon the structure, the more devastation when it breaks. Strife is like water. It doesn’t like to be contained either. It builds pressure and causes more stress, until it breaks free and leaves devastation, irreparable harm at times, in its wake.
The issues with St. Francis Dam are the same issues with the dams of strife. The foundation was not strong enough to withstand the water. Often times, neither are ours. God’s Word, the Holy Bible, gives us a foundation upon which to live and build our lives, including the strife that begins to fill up in our hearts and souls. The problem is that rather than listen and heed God’s Word, we put in our own foundations, or mix in philosophies and elemental principles and family traditions, etc., leaving a weakened base that cannot hold all that comes our way. When leaks pop up we do an inspection, and like Mulholland, declare that we’ve taken a look and it is safe to proceed as normal. I’m not doubting that Mulholland believed it was safe; he probably really did think that something like this structure, designed and built under his own guidance, would be safe and would not fail. But it did. Our pride can easily cause us to miss the warning signs of fissures and cracks and leaks. After all, it is our lives, our bodies, our minds. We should know better than anyone. However, if–especially if–someone, or someones, has confronted you about cracks they have detected, or leaks that they have seen, it is important to be honest and humble. As painful as it is to admit failure in this area, it will be so much more painful if the dam breaks.
I’m not saying that one should pent up all the anger and strife inside. That’s not healthy. Like a dam, there are built-in ways of dealing with the pressures and releases. The Bible is no different. If someone has sinned against you, go immediately and get it dealt with. That’s a release of pressure right there. The problem is that we tend not to go and get it dealt with immediately (that’s the point I was making earlier when I wrote, “The problem is that rather than listen and heed God’s Word, we put in our own foundations, or mix in philosophies and elemental principles and family traditions, etc., leaving a weakened base that cannot hold all that comes our way.”). We tend to think we know better, and so we build a different base, an inadequate base. God tells us to call on him in the day of trouble and he will save us, but instead we go it alone. There are a number of release valves and points throughout, but either we never construct them or we ignore them. Perhaps it is time we take an honest look at the structure we have built in our lives and shore up its foundation.
“The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
So quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
(Proverbs 17:14, ESV)