When I was growing up, we had to filter water. Not the way most of us think about filtering water here in the States, though. We had no nifty Brita pitcher to put in the refrigerator. No attachment to put on our sink. No, our handy, dandy filter was a few coffee filters and a strainer.
It wasn’t so much that our water carried diseases, although that was possible. Our biggest issue, however, was the mineral deposit in the water. It was heavy with calcium and other minerals. We could buy bottled water, and we regularly did to keep our bottles fresh. But, you can imagine the expense of buying water for every drinking, ice, and cooking need for a family of seven. It just wasn’t feasible.
So, we filtered. Or, more appropriate, I filtered. As long as I lived at home, it was my job to keep up with our water supply.
Our filter consisted of a couple of large coffee filters resting in a mesh strainer. The strainer in turn rested in the mouth of a large plastic pitcher. Using our largest pot, I boiled the water long enough to make sure any potential germs were killed. Then I allowed the water to cool completely so the minerals would settle out. Next, I would pour the water through the coffee filters and strainer into the pitcher. Frequently the filter would have to be changed out halfway through because the minerals being strained out would grow so thick in the filter that no water could pass through. Once all of the water was filtered, I would pour the water from the pitcher into 2-liter water bottles. We tried to keep nearly a dozen water bottles full at any given time to make sure to keep up with what we would need for ice, drinking, and cooking. With the exception of those times we bought water to replace worn out water bottles, I typically boiled water on a daily basis.
Once I left home, I didn’t think much about the boiling and filtering. I have been spoiled in my preference for water of a certain taste, but that has frequently been easily taken care of by fixing a filter onto our kitchen faucet or having a refrigerator with a built in filter.
But moving to Almyra brought up a new situation. Because of old pipes, Almyra water tends to be mineral and rust heavy. It clogs up appliances like irons and coffee makers, and it tastes pretty nasty. We have a filter built in to the refrigerator, but the filter replacements are rather expensive. We have an awesome kitchen faucet that I wouldn’t replace for anything, but it is also one that we cannot attach a filter to, and no other faucet in the house would really work for a filter either. We knew we needed an alternative to running cold filtered water through everything that couldn’t use the tap water. So, we began to buy bottled water. Not only was the cost adding up, but we would run out of water at odd times when we couldn’t make the 15-mile trip to the store for more.
It took me a while, but the solution finally dawned on me: boil and strain. Just like the “old days.”
I look around me at our church culture, and I see the ways we have grown and developed. We have sought new methods to minister to a continually evolving culture. And, in many cases, those new methods have worked.
But, there has been a negative side effect to discovering many of these new methods. We have forgotten or completely rejected the old methods. Suddenly, we come across a time or situation when the new methods, for whatever reason, just don’t work. But we keep trying to make them work without even stopping to consider that something old fashioned just might be the trick in our current situation. Maybe we don’t want to go back to the old. Or maybe we don’t even stop to think about it. Either way, we have completely discarded something that might still have merit and value to us.
I hear much criticism about traditions and traditional methods among my fellow believers. But, we might need to be careful about automatic, blanket rejection of those traditional ways. Some of them, I agree, are completely inappropriate now. But, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the old boiling pot, coffee filter, strainer, and pitcher might be just what we need. May we not be so caught up in the rejection of the old that we throw away what could be the perfect solution.