I often use the metaphor to help me understand intangible truths and to help others understand me. Some people get it, taking in the parallels that I draw, and others miss it completely. Sometimes the metaphors are not well thought out, and other times they are, but every one of them goes through a series of changes and revisions until the truth of the matter at hand is more greatly understood both by the author and the reader.
We Are The Bucket
I liken my life to the characteristics and experiences of a bucket. Perhaps any container would do, but the bucket is what I thought of, so I’ll run with it. Should a bucket ever have the opportunity to speak for itself, I’m sure it would see how much like me it is. Although, I don’t have Home Depot printed on my chest, and I’m not orange, and I’m quite sure I won’t be having a conversation with a bucket any time soon.
Cast in a pre-determined mold, each and every bucket starts off with a clean slate and is considered flawless, yet is not. For on the surface of the bucket are tiny, jagged pits and bumps that are invisible to the naked eye, but nonetheless are there, and as smooth as the surface of the bucket seems, as soft and fresh as the baby’s skin may be to our weathered adult hands and our aging eyes, the flaws remain, and are inherent, and ordained.
Picture a brand new bucket, empty, with a new handle. There’s a vast space inside that bucket designed to hold a lifetime of experiences coupled with the essence of God, pure and holy. At birth, this bucket can be filled from the bottom to the top with pure, clean, refreshing water; water that will be spilled, poured, and that will slowly evaporate over time. How clean that life is when it starts. Yet it doesn’t stay that way.
As our lives progress, we bump into other buckets, sometimes spilling our water into their bucket, leaving a little piece of us behind, inadvertently or sometimes intentionally. Others also spill over into our bucket. The water that we started with becomes entangled with that of others.
Throughout our years, we, the bucket of water, find ourselves and others scooping from time to time little bits of debris into our bucket. Dirt, glass, garbage, cement, you name it, we shovel it in ourselves and others dump it in too. Every time a little bit of the world gets poured into the bucket, there’s a little less room for that clean water. And, when we refill our buckets from time to time, or when someone else pours some of their water into us, the sediment at the bottom is stirred up, clouding the water, making it harder to see the clarity.
It is at these times when it would make sense to filter out some of that debris. It would seem that when the muck that was settled at the very bottom of the bucket is agitated and swirled about, we would be more likely to see it, more likely to capture it and toss it out of the bucket, making more room for more clean water, but sometimes, we make sure our bucket doesn’t get jostled, and we set it aside and wait for the dust and debris to settle again; a perfect picture of our unwillingness to allow cleansing and our delusion that ignoring the junk that has settled into our lives, into our bucket, will simply stay put forever and won’t muddy up the water again.
Sometimes other buckets that are full of gunk and that are stirred up so much that the water looks dark and muddy spill their mess into our bucket, clean water or not. We may identify this right away, or sometimes we might not be paying attention as the crap in someone elses bucket is unloaded into ours.
Other times we don’t fill our buckets at all. We isolate them and let the water slowly evaporate. The more water, the longer we can sustain, and the more debris we have at the bottom, the closer the bottom is to the top, making less room for the water that we need. When this happens, the debris can dry up and if that debris is heavy enough, if that debris is cement, it hardens and is no longer affected by the water. When we have that cement poured into our bucket, and it hardens, and we fill our bucket again, the cement doesn’t leave. It stays there, and we cover it up with muddy water, hiding it from ourselves enough that we may completely forget that it even exists. But, we know it’s there, because cement is heavy, and our bucket becomes heavier and heavier over time, as layer after layer of cement is poured into us. As long as we keep the water moving, pouring in and pouring out, we are able to filter the cement out before it hardens, but once we stop and let that water evaporate, the cement hardens. Some people have a little cement, some people have a lot, and the amount of water that their bucket can hold is determined by how full of cement they are. By this time, it’s safe to say that all of the space above the hardened cement appears to us to be all the bucket will hold. We look at this small space for water as 100% of the space that we have for water, and we forget that the cement has eaten up most of the space, and in fact, the bucket is only half available because it’s clogged with baggage.
Until adversity. When we are tilted so quickly by another bucket, or by ourselves, it’s likely that all of whatever water is left spills out and we feel completely exposed. We see the thick layers of concrete, and we find ourselves sideways, with a heavy load, unable to pick ourselves up because of the weight of the cement.
That is when we cry out for help. It seems to take vast adversity in our lives, or what the world would call “rock bottom” to realize that we need help. But if I’ve been knocked over in a room full of other buckets who have been knocked over, who is going to grab that little handle and tilt me upright so I can be filled with more water? Who is going to pour their clean water into me?
That cement is the bitterness that we carry from experiences in the past. I believe that we are only able to be loved as deeply as the pain in our past. In other words, that cement is in the way of our ability to be loved, and until it is chipped away and scooped out, it will continue to block the good water of others and the fresh water from the tap from getting to the bottom of our hearts, or the bottom of our buckets, and we’ll find that when we move around through life with a heavy load of bitter cement, we can easily mow over buckets that don’t have as much cement because of our mass. We’re so heavy, we just don’t stop when we get going, and we can just crash into others with our problems and cause lots of spills. Imagine trying to clean the bottom of the inside of your bucket while it’s half full of cement.
this metaphor is a work in progress. Please follow me on twitter @realscottsdale if you would like to know when this metaphor is updated.