Use it or lose it

A queducts were one of the Romans greatest accomplishments. Nine of them were built in 97. They brought some 85 million gallons of water a day from mountain springs to the baths and fountains of Rome.

In 112 the Emperor Trajan constructed an elaborate aqueduct that was connected to a spring near the present day city of Segovia, Spain. For eighteen centuries that facility carried fresh water. It should have easily qualified as the eighth wonder of the world.

Around the turn of the century a group of concerned citizens of Spain, realizing its historical value, decided to preserve it for posterity. Modern pipes were laid and the ancient water flow was re-channeled.

Then an unexpected thing happened. The aqueduct they sought to save disintegrated. Hot weather dried the mortar, the masonry blocks fell away, and one by one the sections crumbled to the ground. Strange as it seems, the Segovia aqueduct rendered useful service century after century, and then was destroyed by a few years of standing idle!

This is a parable of life. The same thing can happen to the human body. Arms and legs, for example, thrive on exercise. But place an arm in a sling and fail to use it and it atrophies and becomes useless. A mind that is not engaged and challenged slips into senile behavior. The various parts of our bodies are wonderfully made, but there is a law that says, “Use it or lose it.”

This law also applies to our spiritual lives. In one of her poems, May Richstone tells how, in need of spiritual power, she returned to the church of her fathers, confessing as she did so that “the years away had been long.”

There she watched humble, devout folk lifting transfigured faces up, drawing strength from prayer. Her poem concludes:

But no fund of faith was there for me,

Only emptiness and doubt;

For years I had put nothing in—

What could I hope to draw out!

Whether it is our physical bodies, our talents, or our immortal souls, the law applies: “Use it or lose it.” It’s as simple as that.

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church in Temple where he served as senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several Central Texas newspapers.

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2011-02-24 digital edition

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