Invisible Forces, Hidden Issues

Rain and snow fall on the Little Belt Mountains in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, ninety miles east of Helena, sixty miles south of Great Falls. Streams and creeks flow past the towns of Neihart and Monarch, past Camp Rotary and the Logging Creek Campground, on their way to the Missouri River. But most of the water seeps deep into the soil, draining into the water table known as the Madison Aquifer, where it becomes invisible.

The Madison is a huge reservoir of fresh water, lying underneath five U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. This hidden water is moving. It’s flowing. It’s active. It provides water for thousands of wells, springs, and streams, and becomes the sustainer of life for countless people, animals, plants, and trees. Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir dominate the hillsides, providing shelter for black bear, elk, and white-tailed deer.

The aquifer’s underground consists of layered limestone, which allows some of the water to trickle through until it finds its way to Giant Springs, outside the city of Great Falls. Once the water gets there, hydraulic pressure forces it out at a rate of more than 150 million gallons per day. Some studies indicate that it takes 26 years for the water to travel the 60 miles from the mountains to Giant Springs. Other data suggest that it might be closer to a 50-year journey before it emerges and forms the Roe River.

However, some of the water is trapped in the underground, where it remains far longer than two-and-a-half decades. Scientists have determined that some of the water has been in the underground for two or three thousand years . . . maybe longer. Instead of flowing out, it stays in the aquifer century after century, millennium after millennium.

The water that travels from the mountains and bursts forth at Giant Springs has a year-round, constant temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit. This might seem cold to people in warmer regions of the world, but considering the harsh, bitter conditions of a Montana winter, 54 degrees is quite warm. When outside temperatures get down to 50, 60, and 70 below zero, the water from the springs is more than 100 degrees warmer than the air temperature. On the other hand, during the summer months, when the outside temperature reaches to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the cool waters from the springs are rather refreshing.

Most of the water stays underground and doesn’t make the journey to Giant Springs. Instead, it combines with streams from the Black Hills, the Big Horn Mountains, and the wider drainage area. Eventually, most of it surfaces in Canada. But some of the water never escapes. It’s still trapped, still hidden, still invisible.

This underground water system is an allegory about what happens in peoples lives. There’s a lot going on inside of us, perhaps a whole lot more than most of us are willing to admit to ourselves or allow others to know about. Because of past, painful experiences, we force our thoughts and emotions underground, and they become an internal, invisible force. It may be hidden, but it’s moving. It’s active. In fact, sometimes what’s going on inside takes on a life of its own, until one day, it gushes out in destructive words or actions, and everybody says things like, “Wow. I never saw that coming.” Others are trapped in pain, decade after decade, while life, happiness, and opportunities pass them by. Either by choice or by circumstance, their issues never surface and are never resolved.

The Holy Spirit is ready to help with this inner world of invisible forces and hidden issues. He wants to liberate you. You don’t have to remain trapped, hidden, or invisible any longer. Its time for a new beginning.

Miracle of Forgiveness

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves from the pain and injustice in our past. But forgiveness does not happen quickly. It cannot happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, and the injustice. When forgiveness has finished its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and set free from the pain of the past.

Lewis Smedes was an ethicist who wrote about the miracle of forgiveness. “When you forgive the person who hurt you deeply and unfairly, you perform a miracle that has no equal.” He goes on the say that forgiveness is not for the weak. It isn’t for the trivial offenses. It is reserved for the deep wrongs that cannot be forgotten, ignored, or tolerated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We often carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and the forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group called Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with the theme of forgiveness and healing, which are often followed by scars that remain for a lifetime.

Heal the wound but leave the scar

A reminder of how merciful You are

I am broken, torn apart

Take the pieces of this heart

And heal the wound but leave the scar

One middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. In addition, they felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor and met with him, asking for his guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. He also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness.

They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They asked each other for forgiveness, too. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

I am not saying this is the right thing to do. I do not endorse littering or polluting the environment, but am merely reporting what this particular couple did. You might need to be creative and come up with an action plan that’ll work for you.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.


Like Father, Like Son

Families have a powerful influence on you throughout your life. Parents, siblings, and extended family shape you, teach you, and help establish your values and worldview. A lot of people look like, sound like, and think like their parents, sometimes even the ways they laugh, sing, or walk. I read about some cities that have an annual father-son and mother-daughter look-alike contest, and the entries are fascinating. It takes just a few minutes on a computer to find some hilarious parent-child look-alikes.

Personal interests, skills, and education often come from parents. It’s pretty common for a child to grow up and go into the same line of work as mother or father. People tend to follow their parents’ preferences in politics and religion, too. It makes sense, because parents set the tone in the home their children grow up in, and what the kids experience there, usually becomes the norm.

There’s a short film about an interview with a Qantas Airline pilot whose son became a flier for the same airline. Steve Gist and his son, Taylor, eventually were assigned to fly together, with the dad as the lead pilot, and the son as the co-pilot. It’s a great story, demonstrating some of the ways kids learn skills, knowledge, interests, and even careers from their parents.

I know of preachers’ kids who become ministers, school teachers’ kids who go into education, athletes’ kids who play ball. The same happens with hobbies. In June 2011, two men (father and son) both scored their first-ever 300-point game at the same bowling alley during the same week.

When I was in high school, I played Lieutenant Joe Cable in the musical South Pacific. One of the songs was titled “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” According to lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, we pick up hate and prejudice from our families.

We also learn how to behave in relationships from our families of origin, and that’s what brings us to this principle. You see, most of us don’t have very good role models when it comes to marriage. My wife and I both came from parents who had a pretty bad marriage, so when we got married, we didn’t know what to do. We loved each other, but didn’t know how to treat each other in positive ways, day after day.

When talking about letting one’s past influence the present, we often say the person is carrying some baggage. What we mean is, there’s been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it, letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

Not all of the baggage we carry through life is painful or negative, though. In fact, sometimes it’s the good stuff in our past that gets in the way of building a good marriage. People who come from a good family often have just as much difficulty forming a new marriage, because of the influence of the parents.

The second Biblical Principle of Marriage is found in Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14, But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. The point of these scriptures is that in order to fully live in the present, you have to let go of the past.


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