There was a man who got lost in the desert. The summer sun was sweltering. Even the cacti looked parched. Wandering for miles his mouth became very dry, his lips cracked and his body ached with thirst. In a weakened state he spied a shack in the distance and made his way there. Once inside the shack he found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.
The note read: “Pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it. Then begin pumping. If you do this you will get all the water you need”.
The man faced a difficult choice. If he trusted the note and primed the pump he might get all the water he could ever need. But what if the advice didn’t work? Could he survive much longer without any water? Should he waste what little water he had?
Throughout his life he had been more of an immediate gratification kind of a guy. The jug of water beckoned. His whole being cried out to guzzle it down.
But the prospect of an endless supply of life-giving water held intrigue. He knew not what kind of journey laid ahead—how much desert needed to be crossed. He noted the empty canteens he had carried with him. He imagined stocking up on a supply of water and making it through this ordeal alive.
Saying a short prayer, he took a leap of faith and poured the jug of water into the pump. He then began to work the handle vigorously.
At first nothing happened. The handle creaked but the spigot was dry. He pumped harder. A desperate man threw himself into the one activity that could save him. Strange sounds began to emerge from the pump, then a small trickle of rusty water. He pumped faster. A miracle happened. The water turned from rust-colored to clear, the trickle became a steady stream.
He drank his fill, washed himself and filled every available container.
Before heading out he carefully filled the little jug, studied the note and then made one little addition: “Prime the pump, trust me it works.”
Eight years before I got sober I remember calling my ex-wife one drunken evening. (I tended to do a fair amount of “drunk dialing” when I got my buzz on.) Very sincerely, but years away from taking action, I told her I needed to be one of those people who were “all in” in terms of Twelve Step recovery.
I had plenty of example of people who were all in. They made meetings regularly. They knew the literature. They got into service. They trusted something greater than themselves.
But when I talked about “them” I talked about them as something foreign and strange to me. I knew they had something I wanted, but I wasn’t ready to completely pour myself into the program.
Leaps of faith don’t come easy to many people. It seems like we are giving up so much… like the thirsty man in the desert pouring water he so desperately needed into the pump. We cling desperately to old ideas, self-will and the status quo rather than trust a power we cannot see, touch or feel. We resist saying: “Here take it, take it all. Do with me as you will.”
Tonight I take a meeting into a local detox. The participants have been in the desert for some time. They are tired, they are beat up, they are thirsty. I hope I can convey the a little hope that will persuade maybe one to take a little leap of faith. I hope to convey a message that says: “Go ahead, prime the pump, believe me it works!”