Recently my brother and sister-in-law purchased a new heating oil tank. A few days after the installation, their heating system quit working. During the service call, the technicians discovered that the installers disposed of the sludge that was in the bottom of the 30 year old tank by dumping it into the brand new tank. They then filled the new tank with fresh heating oil. Once the furnace began to draw oil, the filter quickly clogged, shutting down the system.
Offering the assurance that this could easily be remedied, the techs replaced the filter, and then poured a chemical into the tank that was supposed to break down the sludge. Less than a week later, however, the system again shut down. During this service call, they removed the replacement filter and discovered that it, like its predecessor, had become a solid block of tar-like goo.
So now, the “new” tank was not only filled with heating oil and sludge, but also with an ineffective corrosive chemical. At that point, they insisted the company start over and provide a brand new tank. Owning up to their mistake, the company complied.
I was struck by the vivid imagery of a new vessel being tainted with sludge from the old. Entering a season of a significant life-transition, I sensed God was offering me a simple gift of wisdom. Sludge from the “old” will clog the flow of fresh oil in the “new.” He showed me that the sediment of offenses, regret, or pain accumulated from long-time service in one setting cannot be dumped into a new place of employment, new ministry setting, or, even a new church, without dire consequences.
Immediately, David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 came to mind. “God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; Find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test, and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways, the path that brings me back to you” (The Passion Translation).
Out of His supreme love and limitless grace, God has been faithfully answering that prayer. As gently as He is revealing “sludge” in my own heart, He is also generously supplying courage to walk in Spirit-prompted acts of release, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Why? So that the oil of His Spirit will flow freely in this new season.
Perhaps in your transition, you sense “sludge” residing in the bottom of your heart. Consider taking the Psalmist’s lead by simply inviting God to, “Start over with me, and create a new, clean heart within me. Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you” (Psalm 51:10 The Passion Translation). Know that, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB). May His Spirit flow without hindrance as you walk in the fullness of your destiny.