This fall, I was driving in Upstate New York, from Albany to Oneonta on Interstate 88. About halfway there, I passed a sign that said, “Entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.” I was incredulous. I did not know how many miles I was from the Chesapeake Bay at the time, but I knew it was far. It turns out I approximately 225 miles “as the crow flies” from the northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay, over five hours away by car. Point: I thought I was a long ways from the Chesapeake bay, and indeed I was.
You can see a map of the Chesapeake Bay watershed at Chesapeakebay.net. The site describes a watershed as:
. . . an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water.
Every lake, stream ,or bay has a watershed. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed happens to be an enormously large one, encompassing 64,000 square miles, stretching from Upstate New York to southern Virginia. It is amazing to me that water running in the streams near Oneonta, NY ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. The sign I saw was posted by people who know that if you want to understand what happens in the Chesapeake Bay, pay attention to what happens upstream.
As I plan my days, it is far too easy to think only of satisfying the demands of today and tomorrow. Everyday, tasks and projects beg for my attention and scream when they don’t get it right away. Right alongside them, but much quieter, are the tools necessary for me to to be the spiritual oak tree I want to be in the future. Reading, study, prayer, meditation, scripture memory, days away: these are the disciplines in which Jesus meets me, and shapes me for the future. What happens upstream affects what happens downstream. The Apostle Paul writes:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. –I Corinthians 9:24-27
Picture your future self as a bay, collecting the runoff of what you do today, tomorrow, and next week. What are you doing to foster the spiritual health and strength of your future self? We can see only today, but Jesus sees it all. Engage with Jesus today and let him prepare you for the future you don’t yet see.