Keeper of the Spring


Peter Marshall, the former chaplain of the United States Senate, tell a story called “The Keeper of the Spring.” This simple tale illustrates the importance of constantly maintaining the purity of our hearts.

An elderly, quiet forest dweller once lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps. Many years ago, the town council had hired this old gentleman as Keeper of the spring to maintain the purity of the pools of water in the mountain crevices. The overflow from these pools ran down the mountainside and fed the lovely spring that flowed through the town. With faithful, silent regularity, the Keeper of the spring patrolled the hills, removed the leaves and branches from the pools and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fresh flow of water.

By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal-clear spring, the mill wheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from restaurants sparkled.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semi-annual meeting. As the council members reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary paid to the obscure Keeper of the spring. “who is this old man?” he asked indignantly. “why do we keep paying him year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know, this man does us no good. He is not necessary any longer!” by a unanimous vote, the council dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. But by early autumn, the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon, someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint to the water in the spring. A few days later, the water had darkened even more. Within a week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks, and a foul odour emanated from the spring. The mill wheels located near the water closed. The swans migrated to fresher waters far away, and tourists no longer visited the town. Eventually, the clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

The short-sighted town council had enjoyed the beauty of the spring but underestimated the importance of guarding its source. We can make the same mistake in our lives. Like the Keeper of the spring who maintained the purity of the water, you and I are the Keepers of our hearts and of our Christian faith. We need to consistently evaluate the purity of our hearts in prayer, asking God to reveal the little things that contaminate us.

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