If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water. In the church at the present day, we have many canals, few reservoirs.

~Bernhard of Clairvaux

4 thoughts on “Canal or Reservoir

  1. This makes an interesting counterpoint to something that I heard long ago, along these lines:
    “When it comes to blessings from God, are you a bucket or a hose? A bucket only receives until it cannot hold any more. A hose freely gives as soon as it receives. You are blessed to be a blessing: don’t be stingy!”

  2. True, you can interpret it both ways, but considering all the burnt-out pastors and missionaries, I would say it is less a matter of being stingy or not, but of sharing blessings from a life that is “overflowing” with God’s grace (Rom 15:13, 2 Cor 12:14, etc). Maybe the difference is in the purpose of each – maybe the bucket is there to receive, but a reservoir is meant to share its content. But even the bucket will share its content at some point. 😉
    Another aspect of this is mentioned in 1 Cor 9:9. God cares not only about oxen but also about his human instruments of blessing. Does a ‘hose’ experience some of the blessings for itself or only pass it on?
    We can only give what we have received. Is God’s generosity visible in our lives? Or do we try to share what we have not really received?

  3. That’s one of my favorite Bernard quotations. Here’s a version that includes a few extra lines that I also appreciate:

    “The [one] who is wise, therefore, will see [their] life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself…. Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom the streams of heavenly doctrine flow to us, that they want to pour it forth before they have been filled; they are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.”

    (from Bernard of Clairvaux’s 18th Sermon on the Song of Songs)

    Grace to you!

    Alan Fadling

  4. Thanks, Alan, for stopping by and for sharing these additional lines. This explains it much better what he wanted to say.

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