Down Nature's Paths



I HAVE been renewing acquaintance with an old friend. Soon after revisiting my brother's home after many years, I asked, "Is the Gage Canal still running where it used to?" When I had lived in California before, I had loved to look at that irrigation canal. Where Date Street and the canal crossed, the canal went under by a tunnel. Had it not been for the cement railings at the edge of the sidewalk on each side of the street, a passer-by might not have noticed that he crossed a stream.

I liked to stand by that railing and watch the canal and think. Coming, it made a great arc around the base of the hill Pachappa. So close by, this young mountain shouldered out a part of the sky and hid the course of the canal. I imagined the canal coming looping among the folded hills from off toward Saddleback.

"Where does the canal come from?" I asked the residents.

"Off yonder"—vaguely—"off in the mountains."

So the source of the stream seemed as mysterious to me as its destination; for, looking in the other direction, I saw it curve behind the bulging boles of the date palms, and I never traced it farther. It came into my sight full sized and passed beyond my ken undiminished.

My imagination was also caught by the canal's smooth, self-contained symmetry. Natural streams sprawl. They fling themselves about across the landscape like lazy men sleeping in the sun. This man-made, cement-walled stream never varied in width, never spread into shallows, never backslid into eddies. As sleek as a slender lady in a satin gown, it curved its measured way across the land. It drew no attention to itself like boisterous schoolgirls. It reminded of the words of an old etiquette book: "A lady is serene; a gentleman makes no noise."

But there was power within those graceful curves and beneath that—silence. That water was deep. Look up it toward the sunset, and its unrippled surface was a mirror. Look straight down over the railing, and one became aware that the whole translucent mass was moving swiftly, irresistibly.

Many a thought of the power of God I have dreamed, looking at that canal. The Holy Spirit's work is as mysterious as the source and destiny of that canal. We are aware only of the part that flows through our own hearts. The Holy Spirit is as silent as that canal. Only occasionally is God's power manifested in noise. As silent as sunlight, as noiseless as gravitation, the Spirit moves among men. God provides the water; man makes the canal. And as the cement-lined canal does nothing for the soil it passes except where opened sluice-gates allow a portion to flow out, so we must open the door if the Holy Spirit is to mold our personalities. As the irrigator hoes out little ditches in every flower bed, and the soil around every tree, and beside every garden row, so we must open the way for the Holy Spirit to permeate our souls. God's power flows through the world; we determine its course and the good it will do by opening the gates and clearing out the channels.