The Disneyland Railroad: Keep Your Level Full!
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take a tender ride on the Disneyland Railroad, and I wrote about a lesson learned on that ride. Last week, I was able to take another tender ride, and learned another valuable lesson.
There is a set of sensors that monitor the boiler water level, above the brakeman. On our ride, the fireman asked us, “On a steam train, which do you think is worse: the boiler having too much water or having too little water?” My friend and I thought about it, and both said, “Too little water.” That’s correct. If the boiler has too much water, it may not be able to heat sufficiently to generate steam. If it has too little, once it reaches a certain temperature the water will all flash evaporate at once and the boiler will explode.
This is how the Ohio Valley Systems railroad explains what happens in their steam locomotive operations manual:
“Too much water in the boiler and it won’t heat up quickly enough to generate enough steam. It can also cause Priming (water collecting in the cylinders). Too little water in the boiler and the crown sheet (the top of the firebox/bottom of the boiler) will overheat and cause a boiler explosion. A boiler explosion levels everything within several hundred feet, starting with the engine crew.”
You don’t get much worse than this in steam train operations. That’s why the Disneyland Railroad crew constantly monitors the water level and makes sure they are always operating with plenty of water in the boiler.
In the previous post, I likened the boiler to our spirit. The same parallel applies again. Are you trying to work/minister/serve/live out of a full spirit or a dangerously empty one? Ephesians 3:16-19 says,
I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
We want the strength and power, and to really understand the scope of God’s love for us, but we usually want to do it ourselves. We try. We struggle. We fail and wonder what we didn’t do. We try to do it on our own. But…
This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
We get into trouble when we try to rely on our own strength. We try to serve out of our own strength. We try to love others out of our own efforts. That works for a while, but eventually our levels get too low and we burn out, or we snap at people, or we may even blow up. What little we have left gets all used up and our “internal boiler” explodes. Then we feel guilty, ashamed, and maybe eve like we’ve let God down. We tried and we failed.
But the truth is usually that we didn’t allow ourselves the time to refill. We stay busy and don’t take time to spend with God. We think we know what needs to be done and when and don’t “wait upon the Lord to renew our strength.” We think we can do our part and then let God do His part. But in John 15:5-6, Jesus said,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Apart from Me you can do some things”, or even “Apart from Me you can do a little”. The imagery is clear. A branch separated from the vine will live for a little while and have some strength, but it fades quickly. The attachment to the vine must remain. That’s why Jesus made a regular practice of spending time alone with His Father.
Now this doesn’t mean that you have to have a 30 minute “quiet time” first thing in the morning, unless that is what works for you and your relationship with God. It’s not going through the motions or making the means the goal. But it does mean that prayer, time in the Bible, time with other believers, and rest must be a part of your “spiritual rhythm”.
We need to keep a close watch on our levels and make sure that we aren’t running low. The Disneyland Railroad crew refills their train’s boiler when it gets down to about half full, so that it never risks getting too low. Our internal boiler needs the same kind of attention and refilling.
Every puff of steam from the engine serves as a reminder of the water level in the boiler that created that steam, and as a reminder to not let our boiler level get too low, or the boiler could explode—with considerable damage to ourselves and those around us.
How do you “refill” spiritually? Have you ever let your internal boiler get too low? How could you tell? Talk about it in the Comments below.