The Parable of the Leak
by Pastor George Van Alstine

I have been fighting a losing battle with a stubborn leak in the roof for as long as we’ve owned our house, which is about forty-one years. I am the household property fixer, so I take this failure very personally. Other family members reinforce this by giving me that look every time there’s a serious rain.

The leak originates around a rooftop air-conditioning unit that may not have been sealed properly when it was installed a few years before we moved in. I’ve had several of my fellow-fixer friends up on the roof over the years, including a retired professional roofer. I’ve tried to follow their advice throughout multiple patch attempts. I remember standing up there sometime in the mid-seventies with ABCer Carl Seline, who has been in his leak-proof heavenly mansion for many years now. Carl stroked his chin thoughtfully, then stated his general philosophy about leaks: “First of all, you have to imagine that you’re a little drop of water and ask, ‘Where would I go?’” Well, on my roof little drops of water don’t go where you expect them to. It still leaked when he left.

Last spring we finally took the big plunge and had the whole roof redone. They went right down to the bottom, installed new plywood, tar paper and quality shingles. I talked with the roofer about the problem area around the air conditioner. He took this as a challenge and built a fortress around the base of the unit, carefully sealing it in every way possible. Finally, freedom from leak worries!

Through the dry season, that is. Now that we’re experiencing winter rains, my old drippy friend is back. No joke!

I haven’t given up. I have an ally now in my grandson Sean, whose bed is right under the offending leak. He’s not only motivated, but he’s also a fellow-fixer and pretty good at it. He’s already come up with some creative new ideas, all of which we will try.

But frankly, I’m not optimistic. I’ve begun to see this as a supernatural struggle. I think God (who, by the way, has a pretty good sense of humor) has placed a parable right before my eyes, on a level that I can understand. My feeble struggles against the leak is his way of reminding my that I am mortal, fragile and impermanent. I can see that my physical body is deteriorating, like “this old house.” And my mind has sprung some leaks that are harder and harder to patch. But even more profoundly, he is reminding me that, as long as I am on this earth, I will always be morally compromised, falling far short of his holiness and righteousness. I have some pet sins in attitudes and actions that always seem to come back when I get feeling too good about myself. I’ve repeatedly confessed them and felt they were dealt with; but then, there it is again, the drip, drip, drip.

The author of Hebrews wrote that Abraham kept looking for a permanent home for his tribe:

“By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land,
living in tents. . . For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect
and builder is God.”
(Hebrews 11:9-10)

Like our spiritual father Abraham, we follow our journey of faith, recognizing that

“Here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

My friend Carl Seline is safely in that leak-proof city “whose architect and builder is God.”